Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Hiawatha Academies building new high school in Longfellow

Posted on 25 October 2017 by calvin

Series of community information meetings, intended to keep neighborhood informed about issues, continue

The historic Shasta Building, which has stood at the corner of 36th Ave. and 28th St. since 1946, has been partially demolished to make way for Hiawatha Academies’ new high school.

Slated to open in Fall 2018, the high school will initially serve 400 scholars (students) and is expected to grow to a full capacity of 788 scholars and 84 staff over the next four years. About 40% of the original building, including the curved brick and glass entryway, will be incorporated into the new design.

Photo right: About 60% of the old building is being torn down. The back side of the property will have a regulation-sized soccer field and a parking lot with space for 112 cars for a Hiawatha Academies school. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Hiawatha Academies is a network of K-12 college preparatory charter schools located in South Minneapolis. Their mission is to empower all scholars with the knowledge, character, and leadership skills to graduate from college and serve the common good.

With the creation of the new high school, Hiawatha Academies will achieve their strategic goal of serving 2,400 K-12 scholars in five schools across the city – or about 5% of Minneapolis’ school-aged population.

Like all Minnesota charter schools, Hiawatha Academies are tuition-free, independent public schools that are open to all students. Charter schools receive less per capita funding from the state of Minnesota than traditional public schools, and the way they finance operations raises some eyebrows.

Additional business partners supporting the creation of this new school include Sunrise Banks, Chase Bank, Propel Nonprofits (formerly Non-Profit Assistance Fund) Partners for the Common Good, Anchor Bank, and the Charter School Development Corporation. Members of the Minnesota Business Partnership are also significant contributors. The partnership includes Polaris, Excel Energy, Hubbard Broadcasting, and Dorsey & Whitney LLP. This method of funding charter schools with private investment is a part of what angers their detractors.

Estimates are that Hiawatha Academies will spend $27 million in renovations and new construction. Amenities will accommodate a full range of high school and community programming with 36 classrooms, a lecture hall, media and science labs, music, dance and art rooms, administrative offices, a gymnasium, stage, student/community commons space, service kitchen, food court/cafeteria, and soccer field.

A community meeting was held on Oct. 17 at the Church of St. Albert the Great to discuss neighborhood concerns. To date, Hiawatha Academies has held three community engagement sessions in the Longfellow neighborhood during 2017. These meetings are ongoing.

Three additional meetings have been hosted by the Longfellow Community Council; two by the Seward Community Group; two by the Midtown Greenway Coalition; and one by the Minneapolis Planning Commission.

Photo left: The iconic facade of the original Shasta Building will be integrated into the design of Hiawatha Collegiate High School being built at 3530 E. 28th St. in Longfellow. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Residents living near the construction site said that while these meetings have been helpful, they believe they should have been informed about the purchase of the Shasta Building by Hiawatha Academies before the sale was final.

Approximately 35 people attended the Oct. 17 meeting. Co-facilitated by Sean Elder, Hiawatha Chief Operating Officer, and Anne Thompson, a concerned neighbor, the meeting provided construction updates and addressed residents’ concerns—which were numerous.

In response to questions, Elder noted:
• In keeping with the City of Minneapolis Noise Ordinance, there will be no construction noise outside of 7am-6pm.
• All stormwater will be managed on-site.
• No school buses will be used to transport students. Approximately 80 students will be dropped off and picked up by their parents each day. The rest will bike or use public transportation.
• The interior design of the school is such that the spaces can be made available to the public during non-school hours, possibly as a community ed site, among other things.
• Chemical products are not used on the lawns at any of the Hiawatha schools.
• The athletic field lights will be on no later than 10pm on nights when there are home soccer games. The lights will be LED and directional, to minimize the spread of light in the neighborhood.
• The fate of the 400+ foot well on the property is yet to be de­ter­mined. The well contains high- quality drinking water. Neigh­bors may have a chance to be involved in the decision-making process.
• The pouring of the concrete foundation and backfilling will be completed by Thanksgiving.
• Toward the end of the 90-minute meeting, a resident expressed concern about the segregating nature of charter schools, how they are funded, and their impact on existing traditional public schools. Several people in the room shared her opinion. Thompson suggested that this should be discussed carefully at the next meeting.

Contact Sean Elder, Chief Operating Officer, at 612-251-3139 or with questions about the new high school. Check the Longfellow Community Council, Seward Neighborhood Group, or Hiawatha Academies websites for notice of future community sessions.

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