District considers bond referendum


Photo reprinted with permission from Mark Drommerhausen

A graph of the 2023 Stillwater Area School District Study. A graph that shows sources feedback on important material.

Cooper Howe and Donovan Rosckes

The school district is expecting more than 1,000 new students to enroll in the next 10 years due to an increased birth rate and new housing developments popping up in the area. New students would cause many schools to reach or exceed capacity.

“Our demographic numbers are showing a lot of growth in the area, we have to address the need for space,” Director of Strategic Communications Carissa Keister said.

The district is working on a plan to potentially remodel and rebuild some of the elementary and middle schools, to prevent exceeding capacity.  In addition to the need for more space, many of the schools in the area are starting to show their age, and need to be repaired and updated.

Andersen [Elementary] has been a part of that community for more than 103 years. I think it was built in 1918,” Keister said.

Lake Elmo Elementary is also a historic school.  “It was built, I think, in 1920.  So that’s also 100 years old,” Keister added.

The district is still very early on in planning and the community is still deciding what action needs to be taken. 

“In the next couple months, we’ll be gathering feedback from the community to put together a plan,” Keister explained. 

The committee held their first meeting with the community at Andersen Elementary on March 28th.

“We were talking with Andersen’s community about the potential to rebuild Andersen Elementary. It’s in an area where we are seeing some growth. Our demographic numbers are showing a lot of growth in both the Lakeland area and Andersen area,” Keister explained. 

 “It’s one of our oldest schools in the district, and being able to create a larger new building would really help to be able to meet the needs of our kids in that area,” Keister added.

One of the main additions they are talking about adding to Andersen is new green spaces and fields.

“We want to have fields and green space around the building so kids can run and play. Where Andersen is right now, is right on a major road and they’re kind of landlocked,” Keister explained.

Andersen and the other schools in the district have been an important part of our culture for many years, so part of the discussion that’s going on is if the community is ready for a change.

 “There are some who feel like they don’t want to lose that small school right in the heart of their community. But there are definitely others who are excited about the opportunity to build something new,” Keister said.

In addition to the Andersen community meeting, more community meetings are to come. 

“We have another one coming up on April 18, with our Lake Elmo Elementary school community,“ Keister added.

Last night, we were talking with Anderson about the potential to rebuild Anderson elementary school. It is in an area where we are seeing some growth. Our demographic numbers are showing a lot of growth in both the Lakeland area and the city after Lakeland attendance boundary and the Anderson area.

— Carissa Keister

Another school that is being talked about is Oak-Land Middle School, which is also in the early stages the of planning.

“I’ll be meeting with district officials and then architects to start looking at options for expanding our current footprint.”

Oak-Land is already starting to deal with crowded hallways, and will need some upgrades in order to sustain the new students.

The school’s principal Kyle Kane explained, “We’re doing okay, but we’re definitely feeling it, you can feel the extra students in the hallways and lunchroom,” Kane added.

“I think one of our biggest priorities that’s needed at Oak-Land is additional gym space, we only have one gym and almost 1000 kids in the building, so sometimes we have up to four or five classes running at a time in one gym,” Kane explained.  “It’s challenging to find space.”

Kane hopes for more office and classroom space. Having recently added new counselors and student engagement specialists to the building.

“All those roles require offices,” Kane added. They are also planning to add two Spanish Immersion classes in the next couple of years which will need their own spaces. “I think we would also love space for more flexible learning and breakout groups… so we can meet the needs outside of the traditional classroom,” Kane said.

If the district decides to build new facilities, Kane estimated it to take around two to three years for construction to be done at Oak-Land Middle School. The goal is for construction to take place without disrupting school days and student learning. By beginning on parts of land away from students. Getting feedback from staff and community members is important in order to ensure the best outcome for students.

“Some of our schools are reaching capacity and getting to the high end of the capacity. And then there’s still some that have a little bit of flexibility left, we want to make sure we have the spaces planned and ready to go for when that growth will hit our school district,” Mark Drommerhausen, director of operations, said.

A lot of work is going into planning for these new facilities. District officials are talking to staff and residents, getting feedback from community member and facilitators.  This feedback is an important piece in giving students the best education possible in the best facilities.

“So I am part of the facility planning team, which we have an outside consultant that’s facilitating the group, but I will be part and help them facilitate that process with the facility planning team. I’ll be one of the facilitators with World Architects, the group that’ll be facilitating as well,” Drommerhausen said.

The final decision is up to the school board and voters in November.