Revised capital plan adheres to policy

District’s debt wouldn’t exceed 15% of operating revenue

Minneapolis Public Schools

A pared-down Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) five-year capital plan would ensure that the district stays in compliance with its borrowing policies, officials said at a virtual School Board Finance Committee meeting on May 19.

The revised plan, which would cost about $136 million less than one released earlier this spring, would ensure that district debts between 2021 and 2025 don’t exceed 15% of operating revenue, according to officials. That’s the maximum level allowed under district policy.

To reduce costs, officials have reduced allocations for school improvements related to the recently passed Comprehensive District Design (CDD) restructuring plan by about $60 million. They’ve also proposed postponing a $6.1 million entrance and lunchroom project at Kenwood Community School and spending less on districtwide supports such as fleet replacement, furniture, fixtures and equipment.

At the Finance Committee, chief operations officer Karen DeVet said officials revised the capital plan based on feedback from an internal steering committee and also considered the number of students potentially affected by any changes.

She said officials have paused plans to install cooling systems at the final 11 MPS schools that lack them and have pared down CDD-related projects at schools such as North, Jefferson and Andersen.

Under the revised plan, North’s proposed allocation for building upgrades would be reduced to about $83.5 million from $111.1 million. Proposed projects at the school include creating spaces for career-technical education courses and renovating the lunchroom/kitchen, entrance and technology and performance spaces.

Starting in fall 2021, incoming ninth-graders living in South Uptown and the seven Southwest Minneapolis neighborhoods north of 36th Street and west of Hennepin Avenue will matriculate to North unless they open enroll. That’s in addition to Stevens Square, Loring Park and all or parts of six North Minneapolis neighborhoods.

DeVet also said officials decided against proposing the construction of a new North High School, which would have cost “north of $110 million.”

District capital plans, required by policy to be evaluated every year, cover construction and maintenance projects for the foreseeable future.

MPS has spent over $856 million on capital projects over the past 20 years. Recent projects in Southwest Minneapolis have included renovations and new classrooms at Washburn High School and additions at Armatage Montessori School and Southwest High School.

Proposed 2021-25 projects in Southwest Minneapolis include new science labs and a gymnasium at Justice Page Middle School in Tangletown and lunchroom improvements, science labs and a performance space at Jefferson Community School in Lowry Hill East.

Also proposed is a new kitchen and lunchroom and new science labs and technology space at Andersen school in Phillips, which will become the community middle school for students living in Lowry Hill East and Whittier.

In addition, the district has proposed providing $700,000 for a kitchen and lunchroom project at Kenny Community School that was put on hold this past winter after bids came in nearly $2 million over budget.

The Finance Committee advanced the capital plan on a 4-1 vote. Bob Walser (Chain of Lakes and Downtown), the lone vote against the plan, said the board should consider multiple options given uncertainties around enrollment and the global economic picture. Enrollment is a key driver in operating revenue.

Officials said the plan will be reevaluated each year.

The full School Board will vote on the plan and whether to reallocate funding from the Kenwood project in June. Officials plan on issuing $88.7 million in bonds next school year.