Old building, new opportunities: Plans for Hiawatha Collegiate High’s new campus reflect goals of the growing school

The new high school will include open spaces for students, as well as a new lecture hall, dance studio, learning spaces and more. (Photo courtesy of Hiawatha Academies)
The new high school building is expected to help the school grow from 400 students to nearly 800 students and more
than 80 staff in the next four years. (Photo courtesy of Hiawatha Academies)

Something new is bubbling up within an old bottling plant in south Minneapolis.

The old Canada Dry plant will
 be renovated as the new home of Hiawatha Collegiate High School, blending modern and retro design elements to provide a new environment for students. It is part of a larger effort to give Hiawatha students
a college environment and grow
the school, according to Hiawatha Founding Principal Nicole Cooley.

“I think that this is going to be an interesting bridge for what high school looks like and what college looks like,” Cooley said.

Hiawatha Collegiate High School is part of the Hiawatha Academies charter school network, which was founded 10 years ago and comprises two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school in Minneapolis. The network’s goal
is to close the opportunity gap in Minneapolis by providing resources to help every student succeed, graduate and go to college.

Hiawatha Academies is renovating a historic bottling plant in south Minneapolis that is set to open for the 2018–19 school year. (Photo courtesy of Hiawatha Academies)

This is the second attempt to find a home for the high school. The original plan was to open in 2019
 in a different location, according
to a Star Tribune report, but high demand from families accelerated the plans. The current high school opened in fall 2015 in a smaller building on 46th Street and 17th Avenue in south Minneapolis. This year, the school has more than 300 students.

The new high school is part of
a strategic plan for the Hiawatha Academies network to grow to 2,400 K-12 students in five schools, according to a news release from school officials. The high school will welcome more than 400 students when the school opens in fall 2018 and is expected to grow to nearly 800 students and more than 80 staff in the next four years, according to the release.

The school also aims to have every student in its inaugural high school class graduate in 2019.

“I am excited for when our class of 2019 graduates next school year,” said Amy Carlson, a special education teacher at the school. “It will be great to see all of the amazing opportunities they have in terms of higher education.”

Those students also will have the opportunity to finish their senior year in a brand-new high school building.

Students have played a role in the design of the new high school
in the historic former bottling plant in the Lake Street area, according to Cooley. The building will include elements of Art Deco design combined with modern features
to create a unique environment
for students, according to school officials.


The high school will include a new lecture hall, a soccer field, a dance studio, a gym, learning spaces for college prep programming
and an open area for the student commons. There will be dedicated classrooms for electives such as art and band.

As the school expands, adding teachers to the new classrooms, staff will have new flexibility to teach electives in addition to required courses, said Cooley.

“I think the new school will be
 a facility that will help us provide more opportunities to make our school more inclusive and
give kids the classes that fit their strengths,” said Matt Toppin, dean of instruction.
The project costs $27.3 million, school officials said. It is being financed with the help of several partners, both local and national.

Students say they are excited for the new space, especially bigger lockers.

One of those students is Heidi Sanchez Avila, a junior at Hiawatha Collegiate. Sanchez Avila was in band class last year and is eager to use the new space.

“I know that it won’t feel the same without my old teacher,” said Sanchez Avila, referring to a band teacher who left the school, “but I’m pretty excited for the new band room and having more space.”

To celebrate the renovation of the new high school, the school hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on Oct 25. Partners and students were invited to the ceremony.

“Many [students] have offered valuable input on the layout and design,” Cooley said in a statement, “and are eager to move into the school and found something really special.”

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