MSA expansion bringing gym, theater back to schoolMSA will be seeking final approval of its expansion project during the Oct. 24 Woodbury City Council meeting.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
Woodbury’s Math and Science Academy prides itself on being a small school, but being small also poses many challenges – crowded hallways, limited facilities and full classrooms.
Many of those challenges will decrease, or dissolve completely, next fall when the school expands and opens a second building.
MSA will be seeking final approval of its expansion project during the Oct. 24 Woodbury City Council meeting.
“This building particularly is to the max in terms of number of classrooms and number of kids in the classrooms,” MSA Executive Director Bob Kreischer said. “The expansion will definitely provide more room, more space, for people to be spread out.”
The new facility, which will be approximately 30,400 square feet, will contain a regulation-size gymnasium, which will also serve as a performance space with a stage and bleachers.
The lower level will include boys and girls locker rooms with showers.
The new construction should cost around $5 million, whereas the total bonds issued, based on refinancing, should be between $10 and $10.5 million.
The project will be financed through bonds issued by the city.
There will also be 10 new classrooms, including a large room equipped for science classes, a large room for band and other performing arts classes.
The classrooms will range in size from 650 to 728 square feet, which is larger than any of MSA’s current classrooms.
“There’s a lot of options for rooms that big,” said Cyndi Bluhm, a member of the MSA Board of Directors.
Additionally, the expansion will house additional lockers for students.
“Right now, we don’t have enough lockers for the kids,” Bluhm said.
MSA freshman Kyle Bluhm said he is excited about the increased space the expansion will bring to the school.
“This is kind of a crowded school building,” he said. “It usually takes like five minutes just to get to my locker, it’s so crowded.”
Since the new facility will be separate from the current building, students will have to commute between buildings throughout the school day.
However, this won’t be too much of a change since MSA currently leases a five-classroom building separate from the main one to house extra students.
The lease on that building expires this spring.
“I think a lot of students are used to commuting right now,” said MSA sophomore Elizabeth LeMay.
Bringing things back in-house
In addition to simply providing additional space to staff and students, the MSA expansion will also bring a lot of programs back under the MSA roof.
“We’ll really be able to bring a lot of things in house that we’ve had to do at a variety of other places,” Kreischer said, “which I think will be nice for everybody.”
For starters, the new gymnasium will bring physical education classes, currently being held at the YMCA of Woodbury, back to the school.
“I’m very excited,” MSA physical education teacher Molly Molitor said. “We’re going to be spending less time commuting and more time participating in gym.”
The new gymnasium will also enable MSA to hold basketball games, volleyball games and even graduation, which is currently held at Central Park, potentially back at the school.
“It’ll be nice to actually have something they can go to that really feels like their school and their team,” Kreischer said.
Molitor said she can foresee the gymnasium enhancing school spirit at the school.
“It’s going to be really good all around,” she said.
In addition to being a benefit for sporting events and physical education classes, the new gymnasium will also be beneficial for MSA’s music and theater program since the gymnasium will also include a stage.
MSA’ music performances currently take place at various locations whereas its theater performances take place at the Maplewood Performing Arts Center, in partnership with Ashland Productions, so being able to house the theater program at the school will be a great addition, MSA Music and Theater Director Jerry Shelton said.
“Right now, you get in there and you feel like it’s a nice set up, but at the same time it’s not ours,” he said. “It’s going to be great to have some space that we can call our own.
“It’s important for the kids to have a place of their own – like a home.”
Kyle Bluhm and LeMay said they are both looking forward to having a stage at the school.
Moving the theater program back to MSA will pose some challenges however, Shelton said, since the school will be responsible for handling the sets, costumes and lighting, which was previously handled by Ashland Productions.
“It will present a whole new theater situation,” he said.
However, the new situation will also present new opportunities for students, Kreischer said.
“It’ll be really nice for those kids that really like the play, but they don’t really want to perform,” he said.
Since MSA received preliminary City Council approval in August, the school has spent the last couple months going through a review and comment process with the Minnesota Department of Education.
MSA also finalized its bond rating.
“We’ve cleared most of the hurdles at this point,” Cyndi Bluhm said.
In addition to going before City Council on Oct. 24, MSA will also present its project to Woodbury Planning Commission.
If everything goes as planned, MSA is hoping to start construction on or after Nov. 1.
This November, MSA is hoping to complete the foundation of the building, so that during the winter crews can work on the interior of the building, Bluhm said.
This spring will see MSA working on the gymnasium.
“We’d like to be in there as early as we can in the summer,” Bluhm said, “so that we can be ready to start school the day after Labor Day next year.”
Kreischer and Bluhm said they are very excited to see this project through to completion since it’s been five years in the making.
“When everyone first started they had no idea of everything that was going to be involved,” Kreischer said. “It’s been a long haul. Anything that is new is going to be fun and exciting.”