Ramsey school returns to its roots

TANGLETOWN — Three stories above the grand east entrance of 1 W. 49th St., which is not generally used for day-to-day business, the words Alexander J. Ramsey Junior High School are carved in stone.

The Ramsey building, opened in 1931, hasn’t been home to a junior high school for some time, but it’s about to return to its roots. Minneapolis Public Schools will open its first stand-alone middle school in nearly four decades on that site in time for the 2012–2013 school year.

The reason is a historic turnaround for the district, which recently ended a decade-long enrollment slide and is seeing particularly strong enrollment growth in Southwest-area elementary and middle schools.

The district purchased the Anwatin Middle School building in Bryn Mawr from the archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul in 1974. No real middle school has opened since then, although some elementary schools expanded to include grades 6–8.

The district’s old junior high school system grouped students in grades 7–9 in one building, but middle schools opened in that era — including Anthony Middle School in the Kenny neighborhood, in 1957 — have since been converted to the modern 6–8 middle school model.

A 1933 fire protection engineering report for Ramsey Junior High School, signed by Principal Fred Lewis, indicates the school had 37 classrooms and room for 1,500 students at the time. Today, the K–8 Ramsey Performing Arts Magnet housed in the building enrolls about 1,000 students.

They will be replaced by only 170–220 sixth grade students when Ramsey Middle School opens in five months. Meanwhile, the performing arts magnet will relocate across I-35W to the Folwell building.

The Ramsey building is named for the first governor of the Minnesota Territory (1849–1853) and the second governor of the State of Minnesota (1860–1863). Born Sept. 8, 1815 in Hummelstown, Penn., Ramsey died April 22, 1903 in St. Paul — a city that also has a junior high school named in Ramsey’s honor.