The recent choice of a site for a new middle school in Mankato brought a lot of relief and joy for those who welcome an east-side middle school that will give junior high kids their own school and get them out of the mix with East High School students.

But the choice — a 65-acre field at the northeast corner of Highway 22 and Hoffman Road — also drew some criticism from parents who worried about safety and difficulty for kids crossing busy highways to get to the new school.

Mankato native Nate Hood, an urban and transportation planner, is livid about the proposed site.

Hood is part of a group whose mission is to get towns and cities across the state to change how they focus on development planning. He’s a founding member of Strong Towns, which believes the current approach to growth too often emphasizes investments in new infrastructure to get new development while disregarding old investments.

The result, they say, is sprawling, leapfrog development and often unsustainable costs that leave taxpayers burdened and communities less desirable to live in.

Hood, who writes occasionally for the Star Tribune and MinnPost, writes a blog ( that includes several articles on Mankato and North Mankato.

”Our current model — notably in small and mid-sized towns — is that of the destruction of our neighborhood schools in favor of the suburban campus model,” Hood said.

”The campus model is a burden on our system: built on an inhuman scale, unwalkable by design, with a disregard to long-term operational costs and devaluing our existing neighborhoods.”

Hood said the sprawling size of the new 6-8 middle school site isn’t just overkill, but doesn’t accomplish what supporters say they’re looking for.

”We have the idea kids need open space and they do, but it has to be quality open space. You can’t just have a building in the middle and all this open space around it.

”The land behind Dakota Meadows (in North Mankato) is huge, but it’s just wind-swept space that you can’t do anything with other than an occasional football practice,” Hood said.

”The size of the new school (site) is pretty large. You can fit Target Field in there four times.”

He’s not exaggerating about that. In one area of his website (, he uses Google Earth maps to superimpose four Target Fields onto the new school site. He also shows a map with both of the entire East and West High School campuses on the new lot with room to spare.

The new middle school is expected to have just over 1,000 students in grades 6-8, while the two high schools combined have an enrollment of about twice that.

Hood rejects the idea that there is no way to site a new school within existing city borders — if school officials looked more toward a smaller lot and possibly sharing outdoor facilities, rather than looking for the largest campus possible for junior high students.

He said there would be room to add the school on the East High campus.

Or, he said, a large area of grass by Kennedy Elementary, which is adjacent to East High School, might have worked for a middle school building, with the soccer fields there relocated and the middle school sharing other outdoor facilities with East and Kennedy.

“It’s in that center of population where kids live. It allows kids to bike or walk to school.

“I remember walking to West High School and Roosevelt as a kid. The freedom that allows for a young kid is priceless.”

Tim Krohn can be contacted at or 344-6383.

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