School District 622 seeks bond approval
Three days a week, Eagle Point Elementary Principal Shawn Bromeland works from a desk in the school's hallway.
"I've been just trying to be more present with the students out there. But it's been difficult getting tasks done there, like making phone calls or meeting with families," he said.
He used to work in a former shower stall, but he placed the school's secretary there to free up a secure space for the behavior specialist two years ago.
Bromeland joins other administrators and staff at North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District 622 who have turned to makeshift spaces in accommodating a growing student population in aging buildings, said Superintendent Christine Osorio. On May 14, voting closes for a $275 million bond to renovate and restructure its schools, most of which are over 50 years old.
The upgrade would move students out of closets, add secure entrances, redo drop-off and pick-up spaces and allow for more collaborative work in classrooms, Osorio said.
"School safety is the big thing, and then innovative and healthy learning environments," she said.
The bond would cost the average homeowner $5 per month in taxes. A tax calculator is available from the district's website. Polling places can be located at mnvotes.org.
Security and parking
Most of the schools are lacking a "double vestibule" system found in recently built schools, in which a visitor must be permitted to enter the building and then admitted to the office before gaining access to the school. Currently, most visitors have to walk through the school to reach a centrally located office, Osorio said.
Meanwhile, North High School students regularly walk more than a block outside to get to classes at the District Education Center. At Tartan, overcrowded hallways limit mobility, Osorio said.
The bond would provide $33 million in security updates, which includes double vestibule entrances for all schools.
"You have bus traffic and you have parent pickup traffic and then you have student drivers all at the same entrance intersecting with each other and it's not safe," Osorio said.
Instead, funding would allow the district to keep these three groups of drivers in separate zones. The process would involve adding new entrances and redoing parts of the parking lot, she said.
Because current classroom layouts and furniture don't accommodate small group work, staff often work with student groups throughout school hallways, Osorio said.
In addition, staff have turned to transforming libraries or bathrooms into classrooms, Osorio added.
For students with special needs, the lack of space hits especially hard, she said. The schools don't have adequate storage for wheelchairs and lack proper changing rooms for students with multiple needs. In some cases, this has led to makeshift changing stations inside classrooms or former shower stalls, Osorio said.
Funding would also provide furniture to allow for small and large group work for students within the classrooms, which has been shown to increase academic achievement, Osorio said.
"If you don't have interaction in group learning activities, you're not going to process and internalize as much of what you're learning," she said.
The funding would renovate or expand five schools, build two new elementary schools and close or repurpose four schools, while keeping all staff positions intact, Osorio said. The district would go from three middle schools to two, with students funneling into two high schools. The nine elementary schools would become seven, larger schools.
"Our district does do an amazing job with the resources we have, but we are looking for more ways to support kids across the gamut," Bromeland said. "Those buildings often don't meet the needs of a 21st century learner."