Construction continues in District 623 as school nears

A view from the second-floor balcony of the new 68,000-square-foot science wing at Roseville Area High School shows the new and old at the building; the smoke stack is original to 1952. (Mike Munzenrider photos)

Renovation and expansion work at Little Canada Elementary School is nearing completion. The $3.5 million worth of construction is being paid for by the $144 million building bond approved by Roseville Area School District voters in 2017, which will cover planned work at all district facilities.

The outer walls of Roseville Area High School’s new auto shop are up. Auto classes will move back to the high school from the district’s middle school, with the new building offering more than double the space as the current shop.

Roseville Area Schools spending its $144 million building bond

With the first day of classes less than a month away, some 65 construction workers still buzzed throughout Little Canada Elementary School the morning of Aug. 6.

Though students were still weeks off, Kraus-Anderson’s site superintendent Terry Coleman said his crew had just nine days to complete its work — he had a specially made calendar in an office trailer just outside the school to prove it. 

Work on the school — some $3.5 million worth that will touch on every room in the building in one way or another while adding five classrooms — began with a groundbreaking ceremony last September.

That ceremony and a series of others at facilities throughout the district in late 2018 were made possible by the $144 million building bond overwhelmingly approved by district voters a year prior. The bond, which 74% of voters supported, will be used to renovate, upgrade and add to all district buildings in the coming years.

Little Canada Elementary Principal Garin Bogenholm was there that morning, taking part in his weekly walk-through of the half-gutted school.

He said that when he arrived at the school a decade ago 328 kids attended it — enrollment is expected to be more than 600 this coming school year.

In those early years there was plenty of room, though as enrollment grew, in part driven by the school’s dual language immersion program, existing classroom space was filled and then non-classroom spaces began being used for teaching purposes. 

Certain activities took place wherever they could — Bogenholm said band class would practice on the stage in the gym while P.E. class was being held.

“We really did not have any space left,” he said.


Building boom

District 623 last held a building bond referendum in 1992 — at the time, it was the biggest ask ever approved by voters in Minnesota.

Roseville’s 2017 bond request came the same time as other school districts in the metro asked for similarly large building bonds.

In the north suburbs that year voters also approved $165 million for Mounds View Public Schools facilities upgrades and $12 million to expand and update Wilshire Park Elementary in the New-Brighton-St. Anthony School District.

Work in Roseville schools includes upgrading heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, expansions or upgrades of all buildings and improvements to sports facilities. Beyond the schools, the aged Fairview Community Center is being completely rebuilt for an estimated cost of $13 million.

The most visible district construction work, overlooked by Highway 36, is taking place at Roseville Area High School. Crews have swarmed there since last fall, turning nearly all of it’s huge footprint bounded by Lexington and Hamline avenues, County Road B2 and the highway into a construction zone.

The school’s new multi-floor science wing is under construction parallel to the freeway and it, along with the new auto shop building, account for about half the school’s $67 million improvement budget, said Todd Lieser, the district’s supervisor of building grounds.

Assuming work at the high school stays on schedule, Thanksgiving is the target date for students and staff to begin using the addition, he said.

The 68,000-square-foot science building includes classrooms designed specifically for physics, chemistry and biology classes, commercial and residential teaching kitchens, rooms for sewing and fashion design studies, and a second-floor patio that could be home to a greenhouse, Lieser said.

Sections of the secondary school date to the original 1952 building, first known as Alexander Ramsey High School. The district’s other buildings also date to the middle of last century.

Come the New Year, Lieser said parts of the school that couldn’t support a second floor, which are about 50 years old, will be demolished, beginning the second stage of construction at the school.

Work at RAHS should be complete in the next two or so years. Lieser said the goal is that students, staffers and visitors won’t be able to tell the new sections from the old.


Future plans

Roseville Area Schools Director of Communications Josh Collins said work throughout the district has remained on schedule and on budget so far. With the demand for construction work surging delays can be costly.

Work is also underway at Brimhall, Edgerton and Central Park schools, with each elementary getting about $4 million worth of upgrades. About 30% of each of those schools will be touched by construction.

Parkview Center School and Roseville Area Middle School are slated to get $11 million and $22.7 million worth of improvements, respectively, while groundbreakings are being planned at the district’s remaining elementaries.

Falcon Heights and Harambee are both up for around $3 million of work; an early childhood center at Harambee will be built for $4.4 million. Work at Emmet D. Williams is slated to cost $4.7 million.

Back at Little Canada Elementary, Bogenholm said the school has planned a Sept. 12 community open house from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. to show off what will effectively be a new building.

The principal said he was impressed with the district’s planning for his school — some of the new classrooms won’t go into use until future school years — adding that with the first day of school approaching, he was pleased the place was coming together.

“Now it’s like, oh, this looks like a school again,” said Bogenholm.


For more information about how the Roseville Area Schools building bond is being spent, go to and click on the “Building Our Future” link.


–Mike Munzenrider can be reached at or 651-748-7813.

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