By Tanner Kent
The Free Press
MANKATO — The $21 million structure being built on the hilltop near Minnesota State University is finally beginning to resemble its future form:
That of a state-of-the-art elementary school.
“We are on schedule and doing very well,” said Rick Lund, principal of Rosa Parks Elementary, which will be the first primary school built in Mankato since Kennedy and Hoover elementarires in 1966.
Construction on the K-5 facility began in April 2009 and is slated to be open for students this fall.
Crews have now enclosed the building and have begun interior work. Tile flooring has been laid in most of the bathrooms and cabinetry has been completed in many of the classrooms. The native Kasota stone pillars that announce the entrance to the school have been set in place and the school’s earth tone color scheme is becoming apparent in hallways and offices.
Many of the school’s unique design features also are taking form.
Individual classrooms have all been walled in with each grade level clustered around a so-called “support area” that includes a common space in the center for small- and large-group work as well as a staff bathroom and extra storage and conference rooms.
The school entrance is specially designed so visitors must pass through the office before entering the school corridors. And the parking area is separated into an upper level in front of the school for staff parking and parent pickups and a lower level in back for buses.
The media center, with two adjacent computer labs, will look over the two-story cafeteria. And the public-use area — which will remain open after school hours — will include the gymnasium, meeting space and small kitchen.
“This is going to be a community-wide building,” Lund said. “We want to make full use of it.”
Lund said construction on the school should be wrapped up by June so staff members can get acquainted before school starts in September.
“We’re hoping to have teachers move in by mid-July,” Lund said.
Meanwhile, the city of Mankato is also developing a $1.35 million complex of youth athletic fields adjacent to the school.
The land for athletic fields was actually purchased by Mankato Area Public Schools when it bought the 40-acre parcel for Rosa Parks. Per state requirements, the school will utilize 20 acres. The remaining 20 are being developed into baseball and softball fields.
City Manager Pat Hentges said the fields should be ready for use by 2011.
He also said the city will begin sidewalk construction near the school in the spring — to ensure students have safe walking routes — and will be extending Timberwolf Drive to connect Pohl Road and Monks Avenue.
And while Hentges acknowledged the new school has not yet stimulated the residential development the city hoped for, he said there’s no reason to worry.
“Housing starts are down everywhere,” he said, adding later: “I’m happy with the way it’s developing.”