Northeast College Prep looks at 2511 Taylor site

Organizers of Northeast College Prep school had hoped to have a lease hammered out before needing to go public with their choice of location, but the necessary city conditional use permit brought it to light.

School Director Carl Phillips, with 14 years in various teaching positions, is currently in a residency at Global Academy in Columbia Heights. He and Erika Sass, Dean of Teaching and Learning, have become active in the Northeast community, have modeled the new school after the Global Academy program (see sidebar) and use Global Academy’s 4065 Central Ave. NE mailing address.

The school is negotiating for a three-year lease with Hongjoo Lee, owner of the former school building at 2511 Taylor St. NE that is still attached to the church building there. Lee, as reported in the Northeaster last summer, purchased it for a small assisted living and adult day care facility she planned to operate. She has another elder facility behind Home Depot at 1918 19th Ave. NE.

Lee said she was about to begin construction in September or October 2013 when the school approached her. They didn’t reach agreement, but came back a few months later when “they couldn’t find a place, and really wanted to be open for the coming school year. But to have them in there short-term wouldn’t be worth it,” Lee said. So the parties settled on a three year lease and are working out who will pay for construction.

The building is already laid out as a school, but Northeast College Prep would need some walls moved, windows replaced, and an elevator installed, Phillips said, which would leave Lee with a much improved building when the school potentially outgrows it.

By the time the K-3 school adds a grade each year, becoming a K-5 school with 200 to 230 students maximum, it will need to seek another site or figure out how to expand there. Phillips said the ideal size is 400 students in Kindergarten through 8th grade.

Lee said she is preparing now in the lease negotiations to have the building almost ready for her adult day center and possibly a child care center in the event the school does leave. “I only charge them for what they need. Elevator, sprinkler system I pay, but for example, the playground, lockers, cubbies, that is for the school.”

The school proposition passed the City Planning Commission April 7 and did not need further approval. A ten-day period for objections must expire, then work can proceed. The city staff member who processed the application called for some landscaping improvements to the site and other conditions, which also are part of the lease negotiation.

“I feel bad for people who keep calling me about the adult day center,” Lee said, but sees the school as a positive thing for the community. “They didn’t want to have to move to the suburbs. It’s nice to have a school so young couples stay in the city. It benefits community.” Lee said she has been in Northeast Minneapolis for four years now and loves it, “it’s safe and quiet. It’s hard to work with the City, they’re very picky, but you just follow their rules, you’ll be okay.”

Phillips said the 160 student applications that they have collected come from “a pretty wide radius,” Northeast, North, northern suburbs and a little bit into South Minneapolis; they would be served by buses or parents could drive them if that’s what they prefer. Early indications are there are a lot of minority students, Somali, Middle Eastern, African American. Everybody for whom there’s space, can come, Phillips said; there will be two classes of 24 each in Kindergarten, first and second grades, and one 24-student class in third grade to start.

School officials have said they were surprised at how many sites there were to consider, that proved unsuitable, before landing at 2511 Taylor.

About Northeast College Prep (from the website northeastcollegeprep.org)

Mission: Northeast College Prep will ensure strong academic, social-emotional, and talent development in every member of its diverse student body, thereby positioning each student for college graduation, career success, and positive community impact.

Vision: Northeast College Prep students will be empowered with strong academic skills and knowledge, social and emotional intelligence, deeply-developed personal talents, commitment to the common good, on-going support from the NECP community, and a deep love of learning.

Northeast College Prep graduates will thrive in the local, national, and international community in a wide range of professional fields.

Northeast College Prep’s success will serve as a proof-point that all students, regardless of background, flourish when a school’s entire staff deeply believes in the potential and fully commits to the success of each and every one.

School Basics:

  1. Kindergarten – 8th grade tuition-free public school open to all students (opening Kindergarten-3rd grade August 2014)
  2. Uniforms
  3. Free transportation
  4. Breakfast and lunch program; healthy snacks in the afternoon
  5. Longer school day than the local district: approximately an 8 hour school day
  6. Longer school year than the local district: late August to mid-June
  7. International Baccalaureate curriculum
  8. Focus on academic, social-emotional, and individual talent development
  9. Peaceful, orderly, positive school culture
  10. Emphasis on learning to work with others in a diverse society