Minnesota Transitions Charter School is opening a temporary school in the Mall of America after its district offices and secondary school in south Minneapolis were destroyed in the riots following George Floyd's death last spring.
The 17,000-square-foot site on the third floor of the mall will be furnished with donations from Ikea. TCF Bank is funding the technology needs for the school. The space will be made into classrooms and a common space for 150 students in grades 7-12.
The site will open Sept. 8 for staff members and students needing one-on-one, in-person teaching. The majority of students, however, will continue distance learning for the start of the year, with a return to in-person teaching planned for mid-October.
Fires were set in the school's building on Lake Street in the unrest after Floyd's death. Sprinklers put out the fires but caused extensive water damage and mold, said Shawn Fondow, principal of the MTS Secondary School. The school hopes to rebuild on the Lake Street site by late January.
"We have this great opportunity to not only open a brand-new building in south Minneapolis, but also explore ways we can create a continued partnership with the Mall of America," said Superintendent Brian Erlandson.
The partnership between the school and the mall may mean job shadowing and internships for students as well as chances to incorporate the mall setting into curriculum. A lesson on the physics of roller coasters, for example, could include a field trip to Nickelodeon Universe.
"We had a lot of opportunity on Lake Street and we will again, but as a home away from home, the possibilities at the mall are endless," Fondow said.
Minnesota Transitions will pay a monthly fee to reimburse the mall's upfront cost of building out the space, but school officials said the mall is not asking for rental payments.
The mall has struggled financially during the pandemic.
Though school leaders are eager to return to south Minneapolis, finding a temporary home there wasn't feasible with damage to many buildings in the area, Fondow said. The mall's location near the light-rail line will allow students to use public transportation to get to class.
Despite the destruction of the school, Erlandson the last several months have proved hopeful. "We feel very fortunate," Erlandson said.