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Linwood - School Design FAQ

  • Linwood/Lower Campus: Community Meeting, April 21, 2016

    Locations: Linwood/Lower Campus (K-3): 1023 Osceola Ave.; Monroe/Upper Campus (PreK, 4-8): 810 Palace Ave.

    We thank the community for their support and input on the plans to redesign Linwood to better meet the educational needs of students. To reiterate:  Linwood’s building footprint and design are based on many months of research and are driven by the needs of the school’s academic program and the best interest of students.

    We have now entered the implementation phase of the Linwood plan and will continue to involve the community to get input on certain aspects of the design, as appropriate; dates will be shared once a schedule has been finalized.

    Note: The questions and answers listed below address themes that were brought up at the April 21 community meeting;the full list of questions posed by the audience is available.original questions.

    PROGRAM; STUDENT ENROLLMENT

    How does SPPS determine what the maximum sizes of a student population at a school should be?

    There are two main factors that inform the maximum student population at SPPS schools:

      1. Student-teacher ratios must adhere to the district’s teachers contract; ratios for Linwood are currently as follows: PreK 1:20, Kindergarten 1:22-26, Grades 1-3 is 1:22-27; Grades  4-5 is 1:25-29.

      2. During the district’s Facilities Master Planning process several quantitative and qualitative planning parameters were defined that reinforced instructional practices, fostered equity between schools across the district, and recognized the specific needs of certain functions, likeart, music, science, and Special Education.

    Why do we need to bring Pre-K and 4th grade to the Linwood site?

    Linwood Monroe Arts Plus is a PreK-8 school composed of two separate campuses referred to as a Lower and Upper Campus. Currently, the Upper Campus (Monroe) houses the prekindergarten program along with grades 4-8 while the Lower Campus (Linwood) houses grades K-3. The remodeling plans for the Linwood  and Monroe sites include moving prekindergarten and grade 4 to Linwood/Lower Campus to align grade continuity and provide a smooth PreK-4 grade transition for children. (ECFE will remain at Monroe; see update below.)

    Aligning Linwood Monroe’s educational program in this way is in the best interest of students. The research is clear that early education--birth to 3rd grade--is the most critical time for ensuring children’s long-term academic success. Studies show that the achievement gap starts to widen at 4th grade. As such, maintaining stability for students at this age where they have formed long-term relationships with staff and peers is critical to students’ success. In addition, the building facilities (e.g., toilets and sinks) and resources (e.g., books, equipment) at the Lower Campus/Linwood are designed to accommodate younger, smaller children unlike the Upper Campus/Monroe which is sized for older children which makes it more programmatically and fiscally efficient.

    Fourth grade will be moved from Monroe to Linwood; plans and drawings have been finalized on this piece. While we appreciate the input community members have on school programming, based on best practices and input by SPPS academic staff, it is in the best interest of students to move 4th grade to Linwood.

    The ECFE program will remain at Monroe. While there was some discussion about moving ECFE to the Linwood site, further analysis has determined that the Monroe site is better suited to house ECFE long term. Factors that influenced the decisions include:

    • The Monroe site allows for all adult and child programs to be co-located on the ground floor of the building, right off the main entrance, which makes it easier for families to navigate the building. If the program was moved to Linwood, ECFE rooms would have been housed both on the main and second floors, making it cumbersome for families navigating strollers and baby carriers and separating the parent and child classes. NOTE: The rooms originally considered for ECFE at Linwood will be used for the elementary program and, as such, the footprint of Linwood’s expansion will remain as reflected in the latest building plan (5/6/16); the PreK-4 grade configuration at Linwood is also finalized.

    • The Monroe site is closer to adjoining district attendance Areas (e.g., downtown area) that do not have an ECFE program and so provides more equitable access to families.

    • There are significant numbers of families attending ECFE who live within Monroe’s surrounding neighborhood which allows families to walk the program.

    BUSING

    How many buses will serve Linwood after the remodeling and grade expansion?

    Two busing scenarios are being considered for Linwood:

    a. If the same buses serve both Linwood and Monroe next year, even with PreK and 4th grade moving to Linwood, the number of buses will remain about the same as this year (13 general education/5 special education) since currently the buses serving the dual campuses are not at full capacity and have room to fill.

    b. If separate buses serve each school campus, this will reduce the number of buses by 5-7 buses from the current number (13 general education/5 special education).

    Due to the complexities involved in setting bus routes-- any one bus route is dependent on a district-wide schedule—it is difficult to finalize individual bus routes and schedules until late in June/early July.

    ALTERNATIVE SITES

    Why can’t SPPS simply move Linwood to another larger, unused building rather than right-sizing the current building?

    The district is divided into seven attendance areas which are closely aligned to the city’s neighborhood or area districts; see SPPS attendance map. Dividing the school district in this way provides SPPS with manageable areas to deliver comparable school  programs equitably to families throughout the city while keeping transportation costs down. Programming may be based on whether the school is a community/neighborhood school; a specialized magnet program that attracts students from a broader area; or particular grade configurations such as a PreK-8 vs. PreK-5 elementary or 6-8 middle school.

    While inhabiting different campuses, Linwood and Monroe are part of the same school, which together offer families in Area F1 a PreK-8 school option as well as providing Areas D, F1 and F2 with a creative arts magnet program. As such, if one of those campuses were moved outside Area F1 it would essentially dismantle the Linwood Monroe arts program and leave an entire area of the district without an arts program option.

    The most efficient and cost-effective way to maintain the current Linwood Monroe Arts Plus program is to keep the programs where they are--which are less than two miles from one another--and expand the Linwood campus to meet programmatic and student needs.

    VARIANCES; ZONING

    Why do schools get to use variances to zoning laws? How many variances do schools usually get to have from the City?

    Variances for schools are common when they are located in single-family residential zoning districts like Linwood. Because schools are community amenities, it’s in the interest of the city to keep schools viable in residential zones. This is why it’s common in residential zoning districts for schools to apply for and receive variances for building height, lot coverage, parking, setbacks, window coverage (for gyms), and various other zoning rules that are intended for single-family homes. There are several examples of schools in St. Paul having similar variances approved. Note: Linwood is planning on applying for two variances: one for height and one for lot coverage; a variance for parking is no longer being sought.

    (In general,variances are common and granted on a regular basis to both residential properties and commercial properties throughout the city. By having a designated process for variances to the zoning code, the city is acknowledging that a strict interpretation of the zoning code is not necessarily required in every case.)


    FOOTPRINT SIZE; GREEN SPACE

    Why does the Linwood’s remodeling plan expand the current footprint of the building? Is there not a way to build up rather than outward or maximize internal spaces to preserve green space?

    The preservation of outdoor open space is a high priority for quality living in urban areas; however, this must be balanced with meeting the educational needs of students who attend Linwood. After meeting with community members,  Linwood’s architectural design team has made significant modifications to the original designs to preserve as much of the outdoor play area as possible, including green space, for Linwood students and community. The revised April 21 plan reduces the footprint expansion by 32% and increased the total play area by 90% (through the addition of an additional playground).

    Plans are to expand Linwood’s footprint from 35.0% to 39.5% to meet the educational needs of students as defined by the standards set by Minnesota Department of Education (MDE),  the district's Facilities Master Plan (FMP) and the City’s zoning requirements. Linwood’s exact footprint figures are:

    • Existing footprint: 27.9%
    • Zoning requirement: 35.0%
    • New footprint: 39.3%

    The expansion will provide the area needed to build core classrooms at today’s industry and educational standards; this would not be possible without the variances. The current classrooms do not meet today’s educational standards. The proposed remodeling will have classrooms grouped together by grade level with student services located nearby. Once remodeled, the current Linwood building will be used to house other essential learning spaces and student supports such as the media center, music lab, special education classrooms, and physical therapy facilities, among other uses.

    Building upward on the existing three story building would not be possible as this would exceed the three story maximum set out in the zoning code. Building on top of any of the existing lower structures is not feasible for a variety of reasons (structural capacities, accessibility - see gym question below).  As a result, the remodeling plan aims to strike a balance between building vertically and horizontally to meet program needs while still maintaining as much play and green space as possible.

    Why can’t you build up over the gym to maintain the current footprint?

    Currently, the gym, cafeteria and student performance needs all occur in one space: the gym. This does not meet MDE standards: “If there is only one gymnasium in the elementary school, it should not be a multipurpose gymnasium/cafeteria because of the difficulty of scheduling physical education classes around lunch periods.” As a result, the proposed addition provides for a new cafeteria and a kitchen separate from the gym so that students can fully use it for physical educational and other educational purposes. The existing gym, while undersized, will function as a gym and performance space with the stage being expanded to be made accessible for students with disabilities.

    There are many reasons why building up, over the gym is not a feasible solution for maintaining Linwood’s footprint:

    • The existing gym was not structurally designed to support floor loads on top of it.

    • Any space built above the gym would be a half level off of the rest of the adjacent floor.  This creates difficulties for  accessibility and circulation.

    • The gym is undersized according to current educational facility standards and could not be re-built within the same small footprint that it has today. As a result, replacing the gym with a new one would increase the lot coverage (footprint).

    • The gym cannot be demolished and rebuilt as the school would be unable to function properly without it during the new construction as the gym space is currently used for physical education and student performances, as well as the school cafeteria.

    PLAYGROUND

    Why will the playground be replaced? Can’t it be saved, especially considering it was built with community partners?

    SPPS realizes that Linwood’s current playground was made possible through the hard work of volunteers and community partners. However, with the playground having been built in 1999, the current equipment and playground layout needs to be updated. Linwood’s planned remodeling is the ideal time for revisioning the school’s outdoor play area. Plans are to have two playgrounds at Linwood with one serving the youngest children and the other for older to meet the standards set by MDE for age-appropriate playgrounds. The current playground will be dismantled with plans to repurpose the equipment as much as possible. New, safer playground equipment will be put in place.

    The plans and footprint of the outdoor play areas have been finalized (5/6/16). There will be opportunities for further input on the features and configuration of the play area (playground, sport court, green space) within the finalized footprint; the footprint of the play area itself will remain as planned.

    PARKING/TRAFFIC

    How will the school ensure that traffic jams and parking problems won’t be a nuisance to the neighborhood?

    Since the initial community meeting on March 21 where concerns were brought up regarding the proposed parking variance and curb cut, architects have revised parking plans accordingly and are no longer seeking a parking variance. Instead of a curb cut to accommodate service and delivery vehicles, the area where Linwood’s mechanical room will be used as a service area in the alley out of the way of neighbors’ properties and will be safer for both children and adults. To meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a handicap parking spot with close access to the backdoor entrance will be added. Overall, only 11 more parking spots will be added to the grounds. The district’s Transportation Department is also looking at the possibility of reducing the number of buses serving Linwood students and a safe, dedicated area for parents to drop off and pick up students.

    AIR QUALITY

    Will the remodeling include A/C for the school?

    Yes. As part of the remodeling, Linwood’s mechanical systems will be upgraded throughout the building.

    FUNDING/COST

    Wouldn’t it be easier and more cost effective to tear down and rebuild Linwood?

    The Linwood building is nowhere near the threshold where it would be cost effective to tear the building down. Approximately $2.7M will be spent getting the existing building up to par with the proposed addition and meeting the learning needs of our students, which represents a fraction of the cost as if we were to build it new. Demolition and reconstruction of the existing building would double the cost of the project (from a total of $15M to $30M), while needlessly losing a piece of the neighborhood's history, and would be an unsustainable and inequitable precedent when taken in the context of the 72 buildings SPPS owns.

    Wouldn’t the money being used for remodeling Linwood be better used for more teachers and other academic needs?

    Building Construction Funds are used to maintain, improve and remodel SPPS facilities, meaning school buildings and land. For example, this money is used to make sure buildings are safe, warm and dry, but also to make improvements like expansions or remodeling projects such as new science labs, performance theaters or additional classrooms.

    By law, Building Funds cannot be used for other funding categories (see chart below) 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. The Building Construction Funds represents 4% of SPPS’ overall budget, which is funded from the sale of bonds, capital loans, or the Alternative Bonding Program.

    Building Construction Funds

    COMMUNICATIONS

    How can the community be involved in the next steps of Linwood’s remodeling process?

    In the coming months, likely in May or June, Linwood will be holding additional community meetings to report back on the design process. Architects will be looking for specific feedback on the green space and playgrounds. The dates for these input sessions will be posted online as soon as they become available.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION

    Building plans, presentations and other background information are available online.

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