Osseo Area Schools to begin capacity, enrollment, building addition studies

Based on data compiled and presented May 9 by the recently formed Enrollment and Capacity Management Advisory Committee, Osseo Area Schools will begin several studies analyzing and inspecting attendance ares, enrollment, potential building additions at several schools, and the potential construction of a new elementary school in northwest Maple Grove.
The data compiled in these studies will be used in coming years to help determine how administrators and the school board would like to move forward with questions of building capacity and attendance areas.
While in the past these sorts of studies would have been performed by administrators behind closed doors and presented to board when completed, the district said it wants to do this work publicly to increase transparency and trust in the community. This is the first year the district is performing this work publicly.
Based on the advisory committee’s findings, Superintendent Kate Maguire recommended the district study potential attendance area adjustments that would increase attendance area size at Cedar island, Crest View and Zanewood schools and reduce attendance area size at Basswood, Fernbrook, Garden City and Rush Creek within the next two to five years.
Maguire recommended the district study potential strategies to increase enrollment at Birch Grove Elementary School for the Arts within the next two to five years.
The district will study potential building additions at Basswood, Fernbrook, Garden City, Rush Creek, Maple Grove Senior High, Osseo Senior High and Park Center Senior High. The district will engage the services of an architectural firm that specializes in these studies, which would provide a timeline, concept drawings and cost estimates. If the board were to approve these potential building additions, funding may require a voter-approved bond issue.
Construction of a new elementary school on district-owned land in northwest Maple Grove will also be studied with an architectural firm, and if approved, could require a voter-approved bond issue. This plot of land would not be large enough to fit a high school, according to Maguire.
Much of the work involved with these studies can be done internally within the district. Basic architectural studies would need to be done externally, and would cost $12,000 to $17,000.
All these recommendations come in response to the experiences and data captured by staff members and the district’s Enrollment Capacity Management Advisory Committee. In the year prior to the May 9 presentation, the committee visited multiple school facilities, learned how building space is allocated to satisfy educational goals, studied enrollment projections, analyzed current school attendance areas and reviewed development plans from cities.
The committee also participated in seven large group meetings for more than 400 collective hours, three subcommittee meetings for more than 35 collective hours and multiple planning and preparations meetings for more than 200 collective hours.
The committee consists of 26 members, with approximately two out of three members being from the community and one out of three being staff members. Two school board members are also on the committee. Membership is designed to reflect the district’s diversity.
The committee and district analyzed classroom capacity use based on any given school’s variance from the district average use, which is 65.2 percent. Projected five-year enrollment rates were also considered.
The district found that Basswood and Rush Creek had more than 10 percent above average capacity use when compared to the district. Birch Grove, Crest View, Park Brook, and Oak View had at least 10 percent lower than district average capacity use.
By 2021, Garden City, Park Brook, Fern Brook, Oak View and Osseo Senior High are projected to have at least 10 percent increases to enrollment.
Birch Grove, Edinbrook, Palmer Lake, Weaver Lake, Brooklyn Middle, Northview Middle, Maple Grove Middle, Maple Grove Senior High and Osseo Middle schools are projected to have less than 5 percent enrollment growth or declines.
Maguire said the North Hennepin Community College and the city of Brooklyn Park have been discussing building an arts center near the Brooklyn Park Library, and the district would have an interest in expanding its arts programming at such a center, if it were constructed.
The district is working to better understand the impact of current and future development near Highway 610, particularly in Maple Grove, said Patricia Magnuson, executive director of finance and operations.
While board members generally supported implementing the studies as a whole, some were less enthusiastic about the idea of future bonding for building construction or expansion and the cost for architectural work.
Boardmember Stephanie Fortner said that, considering budget restrictions, it would be difficult for her to approve something such as constructing a new facility, but she would support the studies.
Initially, Boardmember Jessica Craig did not support the architectural study, but later said she would support it if it meant moving forward with the work.
Boardmember Mike Ostaffe said that, while he supported the recommended studies, the district needs to also study how curriculum is impacting enrollment rates, and use that data to consider both current and future enrollment and building use.
Magnuson said that a curriculum study of that nature is beyond the scope and expertise of the enrollment committee.
Ostaffe said the district should also study the impact of reverting the district’s magnet schools, which do not have traditional attendance barriers like neighborhood schools, back to traditional schools with attendance barriers.
“Should we maybe consider these schools to be part of this consideration, if we open them back up to community schools? Will that reduce the need for a $35-40 million new school? Will that reduce the need for significant boundary changes? … We ought to be considering all options when it comes to boundary changes,” he said.
Ostaffe’s direction was not supported by four or more board members, and the district will not include that particular study with this work. Boardmembers Robert Gerhart and Fortner said they would not consider doing away with the district’s magnet programs.
The district’s magnet programs are used, in part, to satisfy the state’s requirement for voluntary integration, and if these programs were eliminated, another involuntary method would likely need to be implemented as a replacement, Maguire said.
Gerhart said the district should conduct the studies, but that other details need to be considered before the board could approve any recommendations that come as a result of the study.
“I’m more worried about what comes next [than I am about the studies themselves],” he said.
Boardmembers Heather Douglass and Jim Burgett said they supported conducting these studies.
Members of the committee spoke highly of the district’s work in this area. Alida Abdullah, a committee member, said she was impressed by how accurately the district has been able to project enrollment rates. While she had heard negative things about the district in the past, serving on the committee changed her mind. Member Nick Kaster also said that serving on the committee has made him a willing ambassador for the district.

Contact Kevin Miller at [email protected]