A new cafeteria and main entry, more restrooms, more natural light and an expanded second floor with increased classroom space are on the list for St. Anthony Park Elementary School’s $12.4 million remodel set to begin next spring.
Most of the existing interior will be remodeled, but Principal Ann Eaton Johnson wants all past and present families to know this: The mosaic in the school’s front entry of the beloved Langford Park spider tree, created and installed by mosaic artist and parent Holly Jordan, art teacher Courtney Oleen and many volunteer parents in 2006, isn’t going anywhere.
“It will stay intact. We are not touching it,” Johnson said.
Representatives from St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) and Cunningham Group Architecture presented the schematic design to the St. Anthony Park Community Council on Sept. 8 and at the school on Sept. 19.
The plan is to remove the two portable classrooms at the south end of the school, expand the second floor and add 7,421 square feet of classroom space to accommodate four classrooms in each grade, K-5, and add 935 square feet for a new kitchen and loading dock. The designs also include a new front entrance and a new assembly space.
The elementary school was built in 1953 and an addition was constructed in 1974.
St. Anthony Park is a popular school in the district and over the last few years has had a waiting list of students. Enrollment was at 523 students last school year and in the spring 89 students were on the wait list to get in this fall. (Enrollment numbers have not been finalized this fall.)
The school’s popularity and the building boom of apartments and condominiums in the southern portion of the St. Anthony Park neighborhood has weighed into the district’s decision to add classroom space in the building and bring the school to four classrooms in each grade. Currently, there are three classrooms in each grade except kindergarten, which has four.
The school had four classrooms in grades K-3 through the 1990s and into the early 2000s. Before the institution of full-day kindergarten, the school had four half-day kindergartens, two in the morning and two in the afternoon, operating out of two classrooms. The four kindergarten classes would then funnel into four first-grade classes. Class sizes increased in grades 4-6, and those grades accommodated three classrooms each.
In 1995-96, enrollment at St. Anthony Park was at an all-time high of 670 students. In 1996-97, enrollment decreased to 628. Over the next few years enrollment continued to decrease, reaching 374 in 2005-06. In 2006, the year that SPPS instituted free full-day kindergarten at all district schools, the enrollment began to increase.
Since the 2010-11 school year, the school has accommodated more than 500 students each year. The district has set the enrollment cap after the remodel at 640.
Johnson said she is excited about the remodel. “It will be a beautiful space. It will be a bigger space with bigger classrooms and more uniform classroom sizes. All but one classroom will have windows.” The classroom without windows will have skylights. Teachers at the school collaborate in each grade, and the consistent classroom sizes and additions will allow the school to keep the grades together, Johnson said.
St. Anthony Park’s redesign is part of a $484 million five-year plan to upgrade and build in the district. Building construction funds represent 4 percent of the district’s overall budget. By law, building funds—which are funded through the sale of bonds, capital loans or the Alternative Bonding Program— cannot be used for other funding categories such as the general fund,which pays for teacher salaries, transportation and other teaching and learning needs. Increases to the building construction funds do not decrease the general fund, according to the SPPS website.
Construction will begin in June at the end of this school year. Some work will be done while school is in session in the 2017-18 school year, Johnson said, but there will be no work done during the school day. The project is expected to be completed at the end of summer 2018. Find out more at www.spps.org/Page/23085.