By Christine Osorio, District 622 superintendent

In the fall of 2018, District 622 began the exciting work of renovating and adding onto Castle Elementary in Oakdale and Richardson Elementary in North St. Paul. With Phase I of the facilities plan underway, we are looking ahead to Phase II.

Almost all of the buildings in District 622 are over 50 years old, and most have not ever had a comprehensive renovation. As we look to renovate old buildings, our priorities include safe and secure schools, innovative learning spaces, and comfortable and healthy learning environments.

Overcrowding continues to be a challenge within our buildings. The majority of our schools were built in an era that only needed 20 classrooms and a principal's office. Today, additional small classrooms and office spaces are needed for support services. Because our buildings weren't designed to support additional programming, spaces that were never intended to house students are being used as instructional spaces.

Our primary goal with building renovations is safety and security. We hope to redesign our school entrances with a modern secure design, which includes a double vestibule entrance that flow visitor traffic into the main office before given access into the school. Ideally, each school would also have redesigned door hardware, a bullet-resistant film on windows, and lockdown zones where, at the push of a button, certain areas can be locked down to restrict entry. Additionally, our hope is to improve traffic flow in and out of school parking lots for improved safety.

As we design innovative learning spaces, we want to have flexible furniture that can be configured for different learning styles and group settings.

Lastly, we have a goal to create healthy and comfortable environments for students and staff. Gone are the days where schools were closed during the hot and humid summer months. In 2018, District 622 served over 3,000 students during summer programs. To that end, air conditioning is a priority. We also plan to replace noisy air exchangers with quiet energy efficient systems that also improve indoor air quality. Adjustable LED lighting will also improve energy efficiency while supporting a positive learning environment.

Thanks to a positive debt forecast for District 622, we have a unique opportunity to re-invest in facilities. Old facilities debt is on the verge of being paid off, allowing money to be re-invested into facilities, potentially without raising taxes. In order to stretch our building funds to update all schools, we may consider school closures/consolidations.

Community members can follow facilities updates through the District 622 mobile app or by visiting www.isd622.org.