Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Some charge school district isn’t communicating with South High

Posted on 24 April 2017 by calvin

Many stunned to learn about new ABE/T+ building along Lake St. instead of expansion of Barnard Field

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
The question for some neighborhood residents isn’t whether Adult Basic Education and Transition Plus (ABE/T+) need space, but whether they need a new facility next to South High’s athletic fields.
Before they commit to using that land adjacent to South, Ericsson resident, and high school parent Steve Richter wants an assurance from the district that South High has the space needed to complete the Barnard Field project as requested and outlined.

“At this point, we do not have any such guarantees from them,” said Richter. “Once that project is completed, our ability to expand beyond our current footprint becomes very limited.”

Currently, the immigrant-focused Adult Education occupies 54,000 square feet in a three-story building at 2225 E. Lake St. known as the Brown Institute. However, the property was sold for $8 million and is being transformed into a large commercial and residential development by L&H Station.

As part of the sale agreement, MPS was granted up to eight years to relocate the ABE programs and can stay on the property without any assessment against the district for the first three years.

The Transition Plus program currently occupies approximately 64,000 square feet in two levels of the Wilder School at 3320 Elliot Ave. S., and 18-21-year-olds with the Wellstone Program would remain there. With the move, T+ would lose an auditorium, two computer labs and half of a gym.

Community members have several concerns about the cost and size of the proposed ABE/T+ building at 2005 E. Lake St. which is slated to break ground this spring and open in 2018.

“It seems to me that they are attempting to squeeze two programs that currently occupy much more space and have much more parking into a smaller facility, with limited parking. I am concerned because, from some of the descriptions that we heard, this new building may be too small for the programs it houses very soon after it is completed,” said Richter.

“Additionally, if the district is almost $30 million over budget from last year, it seems like this may not be the best time to take on a $30 million project.”

Adding insult to injury, according to South High parent Stephen Dinger, is that the district is building a new $5 million underground parking lot for the ABE/T+ building while there isn’t enough parking for students or teachers at South High.

Dinger suggests that rather than spend so much on a new building, the district use an empty one, such as Cooper School in his neighborhood at 33rd and 45th Ave. S. He pointed out that the closed school has been sitting empty for ten years but has ample space and parking.

He is upset that the district has made its decision about the ABE/T+ building despite community opposition.

“It’s such an extravagant thing at this time,” said Dinger, who attends Parents United For South High (PUSH) meetings.

District isn’t communicating
South High Site Council co-chair Scott Schluter pointed to a January 2016 letter in which the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization, Minneapolis Council Member Alondra Cano, South Principal Ray Aponte and Foundation President Ayers all asked MPS to consider South High before moving forward, and MPS did not reply to any of them.

“We have real concerns that MPS is not responding to the needs of the South High community, not only with the athletic facilities but a long-term plan as well,” said S. Schluter.

He is frustrated that South High is still waiting for better athletic facilities.

“There is such a long and dated story to an athletic facility that should have been updated 20 years ago when the plans were first drawn,” said S. Schluter. “We all thought we knew what was happening. We were wrong. We were not part of the process this entire time.”

His daughter, Emma Schluter, a junior at South High, is also frustrated by the miscommunications and misleading that has happened along the way. “It is a well-known fact, among the students, that the athletic facilities are in bad conditions, to put it lightly. Because it is so well-known among the students, many assume that others know the state of the facilities as well,” she pointed out. “Unfortunately, this is not the case.”

According to E. Schluter, students and parents continue to ask, “‘When are the improvements going to happen?’ We’ve been waiting a long time for improvements on the field, and nothing has happened.”

IMG_7115TrackSouthHighPhoto right: Portions of the South High track have worn away to the concrete base, creating an unsafe running situation, pointed out student athlete Emma Schluter. She is frustrated at how unresponsive the district has been to the athletic needs at South High while planning to construct a new facility for Adult Basic Education that would block the ability of South High to expand Barnard Field. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

S. Schluter and Richter have met with Said Ali, the school board member that represents the area South is located in. He promised to work closer with them and the superintendent to move the project along, and has plans to contact the school board members who represent other parts of the school attendance area, which is much larger than just the neighborhood of Corcoran. It includes all of Longfellow, Phillips, and the neighborhoods south of Corcoran, as well as students, come from the rest of the city.

“We feel a sense of urgency since budgets are being discussed right now and the ABE/T+ project is being put out for bids,” said Richter.

‘I am skeptical’
“I want to continue to give the district the benefit of the doubt, that they will take care of us, but I am skeptical at this point,” said Richter.

“We have sent repeated requests via email and letters to Superintendent Graff and the MPS Board without reply as to what we need to do, who we need to follow up with and how is best to keep this project from getting lost,” said Scott.

“We have sent a plan to the board from the South High Principal, the South High Foundation, the South High Site Council and the chair of the South High Field Committee that would help make an impact on improving the spatial layout of the track and field. All of these requests have had no response.
“That is what we need: an MPS that responds and helps us do now what should have been done 20 years ago.”

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