Larger than life project one of Uptown Academys last

After less than two years, Uptown Academy, an alternative high school at Lake Street and Colfax Avenue, will close its doors June 30. However, those doors are well-adorned thanks to a collaborative project between the school’s students, staff, community and about a dozen senior University of Minnesota graphic design students.

A website — thiswasours.com — documented the collaboration. It shows how high schoolers traded ideas with students from the university, voting on early mockups, stenciling and picking the best texture for a design.

For those high schoolers involved in the project, it will be one of their last at Uptown Academy. The school must close June 30 in an effort to “streamline” district programming, according to a Minneapolis Public Schools officials.

Uptown Academy allows students 17–21 who are at risk of not graduating to make up credits and finish high school.

However, with the news of its closing, students will have to look elsewhere for school next fall. In 2007, MPS closed six schools to address declining enrollment and budget issues. District officials took a different stance explaining Uptown Academy’s closing.

“The goal of this change is to accelerate achievement for all of our students,” Minneapolis Academic Office Bernadeia Johnson said. “By shifting resources from the model of credit make-up to a more proactive model of support and prevention, we can promote success for all students, especially those experiences challenges, within their own high schools.”

Uptown Academy students can enroll in one of the district’s seven high schools, which “have been redesigned with expanded course offerings and resources,” or in one of 19 other alternative or contract alternative schools, according to a district release.

Uptown Academy itself is the result of previous streamlining, when three programs: Work Opportunity Center, PM High School and the Connection Center within Minneapolis Public Schools merged July 1, 2006. Currently, the school has an enrollment of 243 students, but is only budgeted for 225, according to www.uptown.mpls.k12.mn.us.

A total of 68 percent of students enrolled are eligible for free and reduced lunch.

The schools partnership with University of Minnesota and those within the community are extensive.

However, it was the months-long partnership between Uptown students and those at the university that stands out.

Anne, one of the university art students, remembered a rocky beginning to the process when Uptown Academy students visited the campus. Soon, however, students were piecing together thumbnail sketches and an overall concept.

“Listening to the students talk to one another about color choices, and type was amazing,” she wrote. “… They seemed passionate about art and knew the basics of design.”

The fruits of the schools’ recent partnership, aptly titled “This Was Ours,” was unveiled May 8. Two 10-foot-high murals now flank the entrance to the Lehmann Center at 1006 W. Lake St. They featured likenesses of Uptown Academy students, sayings and signatures.

A gospel choir consisting of Uptown students and members of the community performed at the unveiling of the art project.

One student, Gina, captured the moment in a thread titled “A melody that filled the streets.”

“Upon arriving to the celebration [May 8], and hearing those kids sing on the front steps of their school I realized what we had done, and how much it really means to Uptown Academy,” she wrote. “Their smiles and joy filled the streets today with a melody that can carry anyone through the most difficult of times.”