German immersion school board votes to raze old church for new addition
The Twin Cities German Immersion school board voted late Monday to stay at its Como Park campus and tear down the former St. Andrew’s Catholic Church for an 18,000-square-foot addition.
The school bought the former church and its school buildings in 2013 and has been using the remodeled church building, which the schools calls “the Aula” as a gymnasium, lunch room and auditorium. But with an enrollment of 500 students in kindergarten through 8th grade, and an expected future enrollment of more than 600 students, school officials said a new, more efficient building is needed.
The addition will be built on the same footprint as the 8,000-square-foot church, which closed in 2011. A group of neighbors, however, has pressed school officials over the past few months to preserve the church building, launching a Facebook page called Save Historic St. Andrew’s. Some have said that the neighborhood will lose part of its history and character if the church is demolished.
“Tonight’s decision was a vote to support the growing needs of our students and staff and to solidify our existing investment in our current campus on Como Avenue,” said Nic Ludwig, chair of the Facilities Committee. “In 2014, TCGIS began the process of addressing its future space needs. This decision was the culmination of exhaustive analysis on the available options to address our critical space needs.”
Minnesota’s only German immersion school has grown from 46 students in 2005 to more than 500 students in 2018.
“TCGIS’s success has led to an unforeseen lack of space,” said Ted Anderson, the school’s executive director. “The enrollment projections for our current school building have been surpassed. This year we had over 100 families applying for admission to next year’s kindergarten class, and the school has had a substantial waitlist for several years.”
At the same time, officials said, trying to stay in the old church space was proving an expensive proposition.
School officials say it would cost about $1.2 million to perform a long list of repairs, including replacing the former church’s boiler, windows and doors and terra-cotta roof. That’s in addition to heating the building, with its 30-foot ceilings. The addition would cost an estimated $4 million and allow the school to better serve three 24-student sections per grade, officials said.
“Our obligation as a board is to ensure our students receive a top rate education supported by our mission of ‘innovative education of the whole child through German immersion’, said Board Chairman Sam Walling. “To that end our focus must be to do what is right for our students and staff. We empathize with the community and their long-standing ties to the former St Andrew’s church building. However, as a public school we cannot forgo our fiscal responsibility and fiduciary duty as stewards of the school.”
James Walsh • 612-673-7428