District 622's Alternative Learning Center leaves community center

School gone after just one year in North St. Paul

The recent move of Bauer-Emerson Preparatory Academy into the former North St. Paul Community Center comes with some obvious changes. 

One includes the departure of the city-owned fitness equipment, which is being temporarily housed in Ramsey County's Vadnais Sports Center. 

But perhaps the most notable is the departure of School District 622's Alternative Learning Center after just one year. 

According to student services director Cory McIntyre, the school district surrendered the final year of its lease for the North St. Paul Community Center per the request of the city, which now has a long-term lease with Bauer-Emerson as the primary tenant, with an option to purchase the 33,000-square-foot building. 

The Ramsey County Branch Library will remain in the northeast corner of the former community center. 

In response to the change, the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School Board has approved the expansion of the district's existing partnership with Northeast Metro School Intermediate District 916 to provide ALC programming for 622's 11th- and 12th-grade students at Capitol View Center in Little Canada, as well as at the District 916 complex in Mahtomedi.

"They wanted to sell it to a long-term buyer," McIntyre said in a recent interview. "We kept some of our options open, just to see where the first year would go. 

"We didn't make any final decisions, but once the city made the request (to relinquish the second year of the lease), we were able to act quicker on our decision."

"So far, so good," according to those individuals working through the changes prior to the start of the school year.

McIntyre says families have appreciated the district staff's efforts, especially since some ALC juniors and seniors will be returning to their old schools. 

"Everything has gone really smoothly. A lot of them are receiving the (ALC) program through 916, but some are being served back at Tartan or North," he said. "We've put a bunch of steps forth to make this transition smooth. We've done a good job communicating. The call came pretty quickly, so we had to do some fast decision-making."

The estimated cost of the lease for the 2014-2015 school year was about $225,000.

The former community center, located at 2300 North St. Paul Drive, opened in 1992. It contained gymnasiums, a running track, fitness equipment and meeting rooms with a full kitchen, along with the public library. At its peak, the community center had nearly 400 members. Its membership gradually declined, and it ran a $329,500 deficit in 2011.

Library patronage slips

The District 622 Alternative Learning Center and the Ramsey County public library had some growing pains in the school's lone year at the community center. Circulation of library materials dropped 11 percent after the city-operated fitness center shut down in January 2014, raising questions about whether county officials would continue to fund the North St. Paul library. 

As residents began to worry the library might close, the North St. Paul City Council felt the need to write a resolution reaffirming local support for the library.

"Things are going a lot better," said Susan Nemitz, director of the Ramey County Library system, recently.

"Honestly, I didn't ask the city for this resolution, but I think it's really nice through this instability of not knowing exactly what's going to happen to the building for the city to reaffirm their commitment to making the library work in North St. Paul."

Now, instead of the District 622 programming, the library will be will be sharing the building with a private school, Bauer-Emerson, which will see its first year of operation as a school, since changing its name from Achiever Academy. 

Bauer-Emerson will offer academic instruction and hockey-focused athletic programs. Its teams will not be part of the Minnesota State High School League, but instead will play elite Tier 1 hockey teams, such as Shattuck-St. Mary's of Faribault.

The Revolution, the new school's athletic nickname, will practice at the Vadnais Sports Center ice rinks in Vadnais Heights.

When asked about the decision to go with the community center for its academic programming, school founder Tom Forsythe had some specific reasons. 

"Publicity surrounding the community center and its cash flow issues," Forsythe said. "We met with the (North St. Paul) city officials and started a dialogue about our program and how it could mutually benefit the community and our kids."

You can reach Tim Faklis at 651-748-7814, at tfaklis@lillienews.com, or on Twitter @tfaklisnews.

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