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A photo of north campus taken in January 2018, after a few months of demolition had taken place. Photo by Annika Johnson

Rebuilding at 3100 W River Rd

Board of Trustees makes decisions about design and time frame for rebuild

This school year, Minnehaha Academy has seen many changes. However, after the transition to the Mendota campus and start to the new school year, there are still major questions that need to be answered: When will the new Minnehaha Academy north campus building be ready to use? How much will it cost? Will it be exactly like the old building or will everything be subject to change? The staff at Minnehaha got straight to work to answer these big questions.

Rebuilding the new school has been put on a “flash track” plan, as the plans for the new school need to be done as soon as possible. The Cunningham Group, the Minneapolis based architect firm that is designing the new school, and members of the Board of Trustees are planning on the new school being reopened in the fall of the 2019/20 school year.

“The most important timeline to be aware of is the opening of the school in the fall of 2019,” said Board Member Kathy Parten. “MA’s senior leadership team as well as the Board of Trustees is committed to opening the doors of our new facility in time for the 2019/20 school year.”

Everyone that is taking part in the rebuilding of the new school is working hard to finish the plans and start the construction on the brand new Minnehaha Academy.

The next big question regards cost. As of right now, the information on how much money the school is receiving from the insurance company is unknown as well as the lawsuit money against Centerpoint Energy.

“The sources of funding for rebuilding are insurance and fundraising,” said Harris. “With the significant property damage at Minnehaha, it is a complex process to determine the insurance adjustment.”

As of right now, the board does not know exactly how much money that will be needed for the new school. However, the insurance company that the Board of Trustees is working with is helping out with the demolition.

The old layout of north campus. There will likely be many changes to the layout after the school is rebuilt.

“I believe the insurance company forwards money as needed for the expenses we know we need to cover or that we are incurring right now like the demo,” said Principal Jason Wenschlag.

“But, the total amount needed or the amount of fundraising we might have to do is all undecided with the information we have at the moment. There is nothing final about any type of cost, but there will definitely need to be fundraising done to help pay for the new school, so start brainstorming!”

The cost of anything that is being built is always flexible until the plan of that building is set in stone. That fact stays true with the rebuilding of North.

A soon as they could, President Donna Harris along with the Cunningham Group set up meetings that included students, parents, alumni, faculty and the architect team which would help determine what people want in the new building. So far, the meetings have consisted of small teams with a mix of people that brainstormed on six different main ideas for the school.

“Several middle and high school students participated in a visioning session on Monday, December 18th,” said Minnehaha Academy President Donna Harris. “There will likely be other opportunities like this at various phases of the project.”

“They [the Cunningham Group] have taken a lot of feedback already, but as things get more specific about spaces unique features, etc., we will work to get students involved as much as possible,” said Wenschlag. The meetings that have been held by the Cunningham group and the MA staff have started the building blocks for the plan of the new school.

“The visioning workshops brought together various constituent groups including faculty, staff, parents, students and members of the Board of Trustees,” said Parten. “These workshops were designed to allow for people to creatively imagine the Minnehaha Academy of the future. The information collected from these workshops will serve as a springboard for the more specific design development phase of the project.”

Every person likes different things which means every person will envision the new school in their own way. There are some people that are old fashioned and want the building to look like it did before and there are other people that, while they still like the old building, are ready for a fresh start.

“I’d like the new building to be more open and have a more open floor plan,” said Seth Johnson, English teacher at Minnehaha Academy. “I’d like to maintain some of the old look that the other building had. I have a couple friends who are alums and I was talking to them about this and they were saying how much they wanted it to look like the old building.”

The old building is something most people that know Minnehaha can identify with. But things change with time and some people think that change is good thing.

“I think we need a lot of windows,” said sophomore Annika Johnson. “I also think we need to utilize our location by the river a little bit more by showcasing the natural area around the school.”

The rebuilding of a new school takes time. However, everyone working on this project is giving everything they have to get the plans done by the time the school is ready to be constructed.

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