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A map of locations that were considered during the transition process in August.

A critical decision

How the Minnehaha Academy administration chose Mendota Heights

After the devastating blast on August 2, the school board and staff had a tough decision to make: which temporary school location to choose. Vice Principal Mike DiNardo visited all of the possible temporary locations over a week span of time. It just turned out that DiNardo visited the current Minnehaha location first out of the other five locations.

He reached out to a commercial realtor that he knew from Highland baseball. The sites they visited included: Brown College in Mendota, Lincoln Junior High in North Minneapolis, St. Bernards School in St. Paul, Former Target Corporate headquarters in Golden Valley, 3M Imation building owned by Slumberland company in Oakdale and Cooper elementary school in South Minneapolis.               

“Ideally we were thinking a school site would be great, because then it is set up for what we want, and maybe we could just plant ourselves right in and make a few updates,” said DiNardo. Unfortunately some of the school sites they were looking at were not up to the needs they wanted, they weren’t well kept to say the least. It would’ve been a big down grade, and people wanted an upgrade if possible. That’s why the corporate sites were appealing but they would have had to have been outfitted as classrooms.

“I assume when we rebuild we will want to make it bigger,” said DiNardo. “We have some classrooms that are crowded and small.” In the end the decision came down to the two sites, the former Target corporate headquarters in Golden Valley or the former Brown College in Mendota. Both had their advantages and disadvantages.

“The Target building had a chapel space that would have been humongous, that was a good thing about that space,” said DiNardo. The former Target headquarter location had many great aspects about it, including a full weight room, cafeteria with a corporate kitchen, commons area, and unlimited room to make classrooms as big as the administration would have liked.

There was also downsides to the Target site. “The cost was three times as much, and on top of that we would have had to build all of the classrooms,” he said. The main disadvantage of this site was its location in relation to south and north campus.

The Mendota location was previously a college and was in great shape for what the school was looking for. The classrooms were already in place from before and therefore not quite as much construction was needed. “Initially at the Mendota location, we thought that we would have to run two chapels and two assemblies and we didn’t like that.” said DiNardo. That would have been a big negative that since, has been made into a positive.

The difference in the price of the Mendota location and the former Target corporate headquarters was roughly $2 million per year. The price difference between the two was outrageous, and helped influence the final decision in the end. With all of the money saved by choosing the Mendota site, the furniture in the temporary location was bought with the plan to bring them along to the new north campus building when ready.

The school has two primary insurance policies. The first is the replacement of Minnehaha’s damaged facilities; the second being the coverage for lost business income and extra expenses of conducting school due to the explosion The major cost will be the whole rebuild of the North Campus. “Other major costs include the rent for the Mendota Heights campus, contractor and architect expense, and replacement of furniture and equipment,” said Dan Bowles, Executive Director of Finance and Operations. During this time students and staff will be spending their school days at the temporary campus in Mendota Heights.

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