Facilities Planning

Our projected enrollment growth and our visionary Strategic Plan underscore the need for a comprehensive facilities review and planning process that kicked off in the fall of 2018 and continued throughout the  2018-19 school year.

  

Comprehensive Facilities Plan FAQs

How was the plan built?

The bond referendum proposal is based on a nearly year-long facilities planning process that included: a 90-member Facilities Planning Committee composed of parents, staff and community members; several School Board discussions; community surveys; and demographic and facilities studies. Learn more about the planning process that led to the recommendation here.

How will the plan be implemented?

In order for the recommended set of projects to become a reality, it would require a successful bond referendum on Nov. 5 this fall. 

What is a summary of the plan?

The facilities plan is comprehensive, touching every building and program in the district. Information about the projects that will be completed at each building can be found here.

Referendum Building Projects

The plan is comprehensive in nature, creating a domino-effect of solutions to meet the broad needs identified by the committee. A summary of the committee’s recommendation consists of updates across the district, including:

  • district-wide additions and renovations to accommodate projected enrollment growth,

  • safety and security improvements and deferred maintenance projects at all district facilities,

  • district-wide classroom and building updates to create flexible learning spaces.

The recommendation also includes plans for specific building changes to meet student enrollment and academic needs:

  • a new K-5 elementary school being built in Hugo,

  • Converting Oneka from grades 2-5 to a K-5 elementary and Hugo Elementary from grades K-1 to a northern Early Childhood location,

  • the current grades 9-10 North Campus receiving an addition to become the district’s grade 9-12 high school,

  • Sunrise Park Middle School moving to the current grades 11-12 South Campus location,

  • the current Sunrise Park Middle School site becoming the site for various community programs including the Senior Center and Early Childhood programs currently housed at Normandy Park, the Transition Education Center currently located in leased space in Hugo, and the district office,

  • Central Middle School expanding to take over the current District Center building.

The plan is both complex and comprehensive as it touches each of our buildings in some way. 

What was the timeline for the Facilities process?

The Facilities Planning Committee met from October, 2018 until April, 2019.

The School Board received updates on the project at the following School Board meetings:

  • Sept. 10, 2018

  • Oct. 22, 2018

  • Jan. 28, 2019

  • April 22, 2019 - The plan was presented to the School Board at this meeting

  • June 10, 2019 - The School Board authorized administration to develop parameters for a November bond referendum at this meeting (see press release)

  • June 27, 2019 - Parameters discussed at the work-study meeting

  • July 15, 2019 - parameters acted upon at the regular meeting (see press release)

Where would students go to school during construction?

Projects would be staged so that students would attend school at their current buildings until construction is finished and space becomes available. 

Why is the bond so large?

The facilities plan is comprehensive, touching every building and program in the district. Information about the projects that will be completed at each building can be found here.

The total bond amount is large, but due to smart fiscal management and old debt being paid off, this comprehensive district-wide plan can be accomplished with a tax impact of about $23 per month for the average homeowner. A tax calculator tool is available at this Property Tax Information Site from Ehlers, the district’s independent municipal advisor. When the Facilities Planning Committee unanimously supported the plan they had built together, they discussed the reality that this $326 million bond referendum would be a large investment to be made by community members. At the same time, they also recognized that the comprehensive facilities plan encompasses all district buildings and addresses questions that have been asked in the community for decades.

Additionally, WBLAS is not an outlier in terms of what we are asking our residents to support. Compared to neighboring school districts’ voter approved school debt taxes, if the bond referendum is approved, we would still be below the average of other area school districts ($275 per year on a $250,000 home compared to an average of $317 for our neighbors). See a chart of Voter Approved School Debt Tax Levy annual costs by district below.

Voter Approved School Debt Tax Levy Chart

Is there anything in the plan that can wait?

A simple answer to that question is that this multi-year plan is most efficient and cost-effective when built as a package. Because the plan uses all of our district facilities, with students moving into renovated space and freeing up space for other students to move into, the comprehensive plan is one that is difficult to do in stages more separated than what will naturally occur due to the building process. If the referendum would be approved by the community in November, planning would begin right away in the fall and construction would continue in phases until the 2024-25 school year.
 

How has the district informed the community about the bond referendum?

The bond information has been shared with all district residents in the following ways:

  • The Bear's Update oversized postcard sent to all district residents back in June (which was before the School Board voted to put the bond referendum on the Nov. 5 ballot, so the info was specific to facilities planning with a mention that the Board was deciding on the ballot question)

  • The Bear's Bulletin flip-book to the Community Services Catalog mailed to all district residents in August (there was a 3-page spread in the 9-page flip-book)

  • The 12 Facts oversized postcard postal route mailing sent to all district residents in September (this mailer is referendum-specific)

These district mailers are in addition to the other avenues being used to share the information: printed materials made available at our schools and programs, articles in the local and Twin Cities media, presentations to school and community groups, electronic communications to our families and staff members, social media share-outs, and a comprehensive www.isd624.org/Bond2019 website. A complete folder of Bond Referendum materials can be found below.

Can Hugo be its own district?

It is the norm that school district are comprised of multiple communities. The White Bear Lake Area School District serves all or part of ten communities - Birchwood, Gem Lake, Hugo, Lino Lakes, Little Canada, Maplewood, North Oaks, Vadnais Heights, White Bear Lake and White Bear Township. The district’s need for additional facilities space is due to student enrollment growth happening throughout the district, with homes being built on developing land in the north and home turnover in the south and central parts of the district. It would be inefficient and impractical for each of our communities to break off into solitary school districts. Additionally, independent school district boundaries are not set by schools, cities or districts. They are set by the state legislature.

Why didn’t the committee decide to stick with status quo?

The Comprehensive Facilities Committee discussed various options, including sticking with our current split-campus model.  They chose to expand North Campus to become the district’s “new” single 9-12 high school for the many programmatic benefits to students:

  • Better access to comprehensive course offerings, including college & career pathway options
  • Fewer transitions for students during critical adolescent developmental stages, and
  • Maintained consistent, longer-lasting staff and student relationships

Is Open Enrollment the cause of the projected increased enrollment?

The projections reflect enrollment growth due to anticipated resident students, not open enrolled students. Our enrollment projections were based on our enrollment at the time of the study projected forward, anticipated birth rates, planned and anticipated housing developments within our district boundaries, and our historical enrollment rate of resident students only.

How will I benefit if I don’t have children in the district?

Investments in school districts have proven to bring community-wide benefits to property values, businesses and community programs. The district would continue to serve the community with an expanded Senior Center, a robust community services and recreation program, and increased community access to better facilities.

Elementary-specific questions

When would the new elementary school open?

It is anticipated that the new elementary school would open in the fall of 2022.

High School-specific questions

How would we keep the small-campus feel we get with the two campuses when we’re all together in a large school?

One of our main priorities as we design our 9-12 campus will be to ensure that the small-campus feel of our two campuses isn’t lost as we merge into one school campus. This will be accomplished by the ways in which we design the student learning and activities experience along with how the building is physically designed. A team will come together to research other large high schools to design a student learning experience that ensures students have strong relationships with each other and the adults in the building. Additionally, we will partner with architects in designing a building that supports these relationships in an authentic and creative way.   

 

How would the student academic experience change in a larger 9-12 high school?

More students will be able to access robust course options. Our design team will examine models for our high school that will continue to support our many different electives, career pathways, and college credit course offerings in a meaningful way where students connect with each other and staff. Additionally, student learning structures that support personalized and flexible learning will be added to the student experience.      

 

How many students would be in the combined high school?

The high school would be built for up to 3400 students, which is the anticipated enrollment for grades 9-12 in the 2028-29 school year.

 

Why did the committee choose a solution that includes a one-campus high school? What are the benefits to students?

The committee discussed the benefits of a split campus versus a comprehensive 9-12 high school and felt the benefits of a combined school setting far outweighed arguments for continuing our split campus arrangement. The benefits of a single 9-12 building include access to comprehensive course offerings for all students including college and career pathway options; fewer transitions for students during critical adolescent developmental stages; and maintained consistent, longer-lasting staff and student relationships. Additionally, younger students have upper class students to serve as role models, and siblings are more likely to attend the same school together throughout their high school years.

 

Why didn’t the committee decide to build a brand new high school?

The facilities committee was committed to meeting as many needs as possible within a reasonable budget. Utilizing as much existing square footage as practical was a priority for cost control. It discussed building a brand new high school on a new site, but found the cost of a new high school on a new site would make it impossible to address our broad PK-12 district-wide facilities needs. The current North Campus building would be renovated and improved.

 

Does the District plan to buy property bordering North Campus?  

A single unified grade 9-12 high school could be built on the existing property already owned by the district. The district would consider purchasing neighboring homes from interested sellers if expansion made sense. The Board has stated publicly that it will not use eminent domain. On September 23, the Board passed a resolution confirming that the district will not use eminent domain for additional land around the current White Bear Lake Area High School - North Campus if the bond referendum is approved by voters. See the press release here.

Rumor vs. Reality

Does the District plan to buy property bordering North Campus?  

A single unified grade 9-12 high school could be built on the existing property already owned by the district. The district would consider purchasing neighboring homes from interested sellers if expansion made sense. The Board has stated publicly that it will not use eminent domain. On September 23, the Board passed a resolution confirming that the district will not use eminent domain for additional land around the current White Bear Lake Area High School - North Campus if the bond referendum is approved by voters. See the press release here.

 

Is it true that growth is happening only in the northern part of the district?

The need for additional facilities space is due to student enrollment growth happening throughout the district. Homes are being built on developing land in the north and home turnover is happening in the south and central parts of the district, which is leading to all of our schools nearing capacity and continuing to see enrollment growth. Over the past three years, the schools with the highest enrollment growth have been in the south end of the school district.

 

Is it true District Center will be torn down?   

No, District Center will not be torn down. Due to the cost and the historical significance of the building, that portion of the committee's plan that discussed Central Middle School (including the current district office space) being replaced at some point in the future was not accepted. Central Middle School would expand into the current District Center, so students would be back in our oldest and most historic building.

Bond Referendum News

Bear holding "Thank You" sign

Voters in the White Bear Lake Area School District approved a $326 million building bond request to address building needs across the district by a margin of 57.4% yes to 42.6% no (unofficial results: 8,536 yes votes, 6,336 no votes). 

Orange Bear paw

Community organizations have formally endorsed the bond referendum, including the White Bear Lake Economic Development Corporation, Hugo City Council, Vadnais Heights Economic Development Corporation and White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce.

Orange Bear paw

At its September 23 Board meeting, the White Bear Lake Area School Board unanimously passed a resolution confirming that the district will not use eminent domain for additional land around the current White Bear Lake Area High School - North Campus if the November 5 referendum is approved by voters

Presentations to the School Board


 

Facilities Planning Process

The district worked last summer with a demographer to project our enrollment trends and with a design and engineering firm to collect data about our facilities. Next steps included community involvement, with engagement efforts taking place in order to collect input from the community at large. 

A Facility Planning Committee comprised of a trio of teams focused on the areas of learning spaces, community spaces, and physical conditions.  

Facilities Planning Committee Membership

The Facility Planning Committee was formed with an application process in September of 2018 to study the White Bear Lake Area Schools' facilities and develop a comprehensive, long-range Facilities Master Plan for recommendation to the School Board. The facilities study and resulting recommendation was based on capacity, current enrollment, projected enrollment, educational needs of the School District, alignment with the District's Strategic Vision, community recreation, special programs, school security, and financial stewardship. 

View the complete District Facility Planning Committee Charge Statement.

Facility Planning Committee Meeting #3 Materials

Facility Planning Committee Meeting #4 Materials

Facility Planning Committee Meeting #5 Materials

Facility Planning Committee Meeting #6 Materials

Solutions Sub-committee Meeting Materials