New schools will be inspiring spaces

Mike KnaakEditorial, Opinion, Print Editions, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. Joseph0 Comments

With the building of two new public high schools in the area, it’s going to be an exciting 18 months for students, parents – and taxpayers.

Never mind the beams and bricks rising in the farm fields of Sartell and St. Cloud. Take a look at the “flythroughs” on the school districts’ websites to get a real feel for what’s going on.

The two schools look like the campuses of Apple or Google with large windows, lots of light and attention to the surrounding landscapes.

The new schools, according to planners, will be open, flexible, dynamic and interactive. Those words also describe today’s high-tech, successful businesses.

Leaders in both school districts talk of interconnected classrooms and “learning neighborhoods.”

The new schools don’t hold long halls of boxy, identical classrooms.

Sartell’s $89.5-million school is the third high school in the district’s 50-year history. The $104.5-million St. Cloud Tech replaces a school in downtown St. Cloud that dates to 1917.

I graduated from Tech in 1972. Before enforcing fire codes and remodeling, it was a beautiful building of wood trim, high ceilings and grand open stairways. When I visited last summer, what I saw was sad. School leaders had done their best to create a place for imagination and learning, but the cold, institutional feel was still there.

Both new schools are in wide-open country settings.

Here’s what the designers of the new St. Cloud Tech, under construction in southwest St. Cloud, say:  “As students and visitors move through the school, the journey evokes a sense of discovery, exposing students to different hands-on and innovative experiences while always being connected to nature and the outdoors.”

The most important “building,” though, is building classes and programs to foster collaboration and cooperation that live up to the grand spaces.

Students, teachers and administrators are certainly involved now with those tasks.

We need to keep a close eye on how the new schools will be used, not just what they will look like. Let’s hold school leaders accountable.

Even if you don’t have school-aged children, we all pay taxes, but more importantly, we’ll depend on the young adults educated there to be civic and business leaders.

Those students need to live up to the inspiring designs of the builders and architects.

Author: Mike Knaak

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