Call it a one-classroom schoolhouse.
A small red school on Minnesota’s northernmost point will no longer technically host the state’s only one-room public schoolhouse, thanks to new construction scheduled to begin this summer.
A multipurpose room will be added to the Angle Inlet Elementary School, more than doubling the size of the facility that now houses nine students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
The new space — approximately 70 feet by 30 feet — will likely include a basketball hoop and volleyball court, said Peter Haapala, superintendent of Warroad Public Schools, which oversees the school.
Administrators also hope to install a stage that could fold down from the wall like a Murphy bed, which could be used for the two plays the students perform each year.
The space will give students a warmer, safer place for phy-ed classes on cold winter days without moving their desks, officials said.
“With all the desks and the chairs and the sharp corners of tables … sinks, computers, it gets pretty crazy when we have two teams battling it out … in dodge ball,” said the school’s sole teacher, Linda LaMie. “It’s going to be a really nice situation when we can just go.”
It will also be a boon for the Northwest Angle community of about 120 residents. At various times, the room will be available for use for community groups and social gatherings, officials said.
Two new bathrooms are also planned between the existing building and the addition — a big plus for LaMie, who has had to empty out port-a-potties when the septic line freezes in the winter.
The Angle Inlet School, the northernmost school in the Lower 48, has been cited in media around the nation for its remote, one-room learning. With the town of Angle Inlet cut off from the mainland by Lake of the Woods, young students there would otherwise have to take a 75-mile bus ride to Warroad, Minn., on a route that goes into Canada before returning to Minnesota.
Lisa Goulet, whose eight children are either in the school or graduated from it, acknowledged the new room isn’t a “necessity.”
“We’ve made it this long without it and survived,” she said. “But a benefit to the children? Absolutely 100%. They don’t realize what they’re missing at this point.”
The new space will give children more room to stretch their legs and run around, she said, and community members won’t have to crowd into the building to watch the school plays.
“I think there’s just a handful of people who are going to miss being smacked in like sardines,” she said. “I’m not going to be nostalgic about being cramped in that area.”
And while community members can hold gatherings at a couple of local businesses, such as the Angle Outpost resort that Goulet and her husband own, Goulet said they have limited space. Nothing like the planned new room exists nearby, she and others said.
Haapala said adding a multipurpose room has been discussed for a while, even as the school was being updated a couple of years ago with new siding, windows, carpet, paint and other repairs.
The state Legislature granted the district $600,000 last year for the addition.
Bids that opened last week came in higher than that, however, at $715,000. Haapala said officials will now have to decide how to scale back the budget and come up with extra funds.