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Sanford Middle School expansion underway

Posted on 03 May 2015 by calvin

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Sanford-Expansion-01What do you do with a 91 year old public school building that’s busting at the seams? In the case of Sanford Middle School, 3524 – 42nd Ave. S., you tear down the NE wing, build an inspiring and workable addition, and reposition the school for the 21st century.

Principal Dr. Emily Palmer explained, “Middle school is for students grades 6-8, and provides a smooth transition between elementary and high school. There are five schools (grades K-5) which feed into Sanford: Pratt, Bancroft, Howe, Dowling and Northrop. The school district predicted that there would be far more students in these feeder schools than Sanford could absorb going forward.”

Community parents wanted a middle school that could provide a top-notch education for their kids, and they had a strong voice in securing the expansion at Sanford. The expansion planning team consisted of five parents, a liaison from Minneapolis Public Schools, nine Sanford staff, architects Paul May and Alicia Skow of Miller Dunwiddie Architecture (the firm which won the contract), the assistant principal at Sanford, Vernon Rowe, and Palmer.
The planning process was collaborative, and took about a year to complete.

Sanford-Expansion-10Construction on Sanford’s expansion began last December, and is expected to wrap up in September 2016. When all is said and done, it’ll take nearly two full school years before the 48,000 square foot addition is complete. The price tag is $19 million.

The addition will create a high school quality gymnasium with bleacher seating for 300, 12 new classrooms, three new science labs, three upgraded science labs, a larger cafeteria, a well-lit staircase, and an exterior aesthetic that marks the school as being environmentally conscious – from the boulder seating on the 35th St. side to the restored and improved pollinator-friendly per­ennial gardens.

Sanford-Expansion-13Paul May, lead designer and educational planner for the project, said, “The first step in sustainability is sometimes making the decision to stay put. Sustainable strategies are embedded into the project from its initial concept through construction. We believe sustainability is a basic value to the school. Some of these sustainable elements include LED lighting, improved thermal qualities of walls and roofs, and mechanical and electrical fixtures to reduce energy use. We’ve also tried to minimize waste. The parts of the building that were removed were from the 1960’s addition, and didn’t contribute to the educational plans for the school. This expansion will allow enrollment to grow, which is a critical need for Sanford.”

“The new construction is organized in such a way,” Palmer said, “that each grade (6, 7 and 8) will operate on its own floor. We’ll have space for a maximum capacity of 960 students, as predicted by the fall of 2017 (up from the current enrollment of 800). And with the new space, students will really feel the benefits of the enriched activities we offer here including Arabic, Ojibwe, Spanish, ESL, three levels of band, choir, drama, visual arts, design and engineering.”

Sanford-Expansion-06While everyone is excited for the final product, getting there has required more than minor inconveniences. “It’s not exactly easy,” Palmer continued, “tearing down and reconstructing half a school while classes are is session.” She added,” Westin Construction has been fantastic, keeping noise and dust manageable and safety standards high.”

Currently, Palmer uses an office the size of a storage closet. She gave her more spacious surroundings to the school nurse, who lost her office to demolition. “We have 13 teachers working from carts right now, because they don’t have permanent classrooms. All of this space- sharing requires everyone to be flexible,” Palmer noted.

“The project has been going very well,” May said. “Minneapolis Public Schools has been proactive in understanding the changing educational methods and growth issues at Sanford, and we believe this enhanced school building will serve the Longfellow neighborhood for decades to come.”

Sanford Middle School is proud to celebrate more than nine decades of history in our lively and ever-changing river community. Palmer encourages community members, not just attending families, to check the website regularly for construction updates and to feel welcome at open houses and, of course, the grand opening.”
“This school belongs to the community, and everyone is welcome here,” Palmer concluded.

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