When parents and students walk into Hilltop Primary School in Minnetrista, they see much more than a typical school entryway. Instead, they find a new, “active” lobby that includes a projector system for playing interactive videos and several large motor-play items. The lobby is part of a $2.6 million addition to the school completed last summer.
Joel Dahl, Westonka Public School’s community education director, says the district had two specific goals with the project. “We wanted to bring all district programs back on campus. We had been leasing space at Stonegate Plaza in downtown Mound for our early-learning programs, including Early Childhood Family Education, Preschool/School Readiness, screening and preschool-aged child care,” Dahl says. “Not having these programs on district property is quite challenging and limits the control we have over the environment.”
The new space allows all of these programs to be at one location, which is much more convenient for families, Dahl says.
“We needed the additional space,” he says. “Building the new center added additional spots for both preschool and preschool-aged child care. This also opened up additional space in both Hilltop and Shirley Hills primary schools to allow for growth of the K-4 programs, [which] are also feeling a space crunch,” Dahl says.
Despite the added space, there is still a waiting list to enroll in preschool classes at Hilltop, Dahl says.
The 10,000-square-foot project included six new early childhood classrooms, which will be used for preschool and pre-K classes. “All six classrooms look the same, and there is a link that ties the new space together creating a new entryway for early childhood, so parents can drop off independently without having to go through the elementary school,” says Jason Peterson, project manager for Kraus-Anderson, the contractor that completed the work on the addition. “We also made accommodations to the playground for the early childhood ages.”
The project, which took about eight months, was completed with minimal disruption to current students. Peterson explains that little work was done inside the building, and what did need to be done was finished during school vacations. “It was very straightforward,” Peterson says. “We also put mechanical systems into place to accommodate the expansion they are expecting to do in the near future.”
In addition to the new classrooms, the active lobby was a key part of the addition. “It will be utilized as an open area for students where they can learn, play and explore,” Dahl says.
Hilltop Primary has more than 400 students in prekindergarten through fourth grade. In 2012, the school received the National Blue Ribbon School Award for Exemplary Education. The school also focuses on technology; each student, in grades K–4, has access to their own iPad.
At some point, the district plans to complete a second addition to the school. “This was phase one of a two-phase project,” Dahl explains. “Phase one brought all of our 4- and 5-year-old preschool and preschool-aged child care back on campus. Phase two will bring the remaining early childhood programs including Early Childhood Family Education and 3-year-old preschool on campus.”