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Ben Barton

One of the great joys of serving the Princeton Public Schools community is the partnership and cooperation among the city, businesses, hospital and school district in support of families and students in our community. We have a shared commitment to the well-being of everyone in our community and we come together to take care of each other. We also come together to work efficiently and effectively to meet the needs of our community.

Recently, the Princeton City Council and School Board met to discuss the District’s Long-Range Facilities Planning process and explore opportunities that might exist for the community as a whole. The facilities planning team began in 2013 and developed a master list of priorities for the District’s facilities needs. After completing Princeton Primary School in 2016, the focus now turns to the high school. And frequently through our planning meetings, residents encouraged us to work in partnership with the city to explore recreational and community needs in addition to high school needs. A joint City-School District workgroup is now considering possibilities.

On Wednesday, May 12 from 6-7pm at the Performing Arts Center at Princeton High School, we invite residents to a community meeting to discuss facility needs within our community. This meeting is open to all members of the public, and we encourage you to attend. We will also host the meeting online for those who want to join virtually. Please email superintendent@isd477.org if you’d like to participate via Zoom.

As you may recall, before the pandemic we discussed holding a Bond referendum to address upgrades for our high school. We put that recommendation on hold when our State shutdown last spring. During the last year, our needs have only become more evident.

Classrooms at the high school, for instance, are smaller in size than what the Minnesota Department of Education recommends. Hallways and stairwells are also tight. Other areas in need of attention include our career technology center, improved security, enhancements to the alternative learning center and more. All have been identified as updates that would improve learning opportunities for Princeton High School students. In terms of increasing the size of classrooms, community survey results show that nearly 80 percent of respondents support the upgrade.

During our Long-Term Facilities Planning meetings and engagement process, our community members have also expressed an interest in some type of a new community center with spaces focused on physical activity and emotional well-being. They have asked if there was potential to partner with the City of Princeton or other stakeholders in our community.

At the collaborative city council and school meeting, members discussed this idea and how the city, school district, local health and fitness organizations, and potentially even a medical group could work together to improve the quality of life for all members of the community.

Several other communities in the state have built similar multi-use facilities. Mora, Chisago Lakes, St. Michael-Albertville, Foley, and Pequot Lakes are examples.

Serving the school as a field house, these facilities typically include space for three or four basketball-size courts with an oval walking or running track alongside. Often, there’s also an oval walking track on a second level above the court level accessible to the public during the day.

If a hospital or medical group joins as a partner, clinical and office space could be included. Patients are able to meet privately with health care professionals and use the walking tracks or other gym equipment for physical therapy and other needs. Indoor opportunities for walking and exercising let people of all ages stay active and achieve their fitness goals, especially in the winter.

There is some interest among the City Council and School Board to further investigate a potential partnership. A special subcommittee will be meeting to study the potential of a multi-use facility and its benefits to the community. A recommendation to both bodies is expected before summer. If this proposal interests you, we welcome your involvement in the planning process. Please call the school district at 763-389-6184. We hope to see you at the community meeting on May 12 as we work together toward the shared health of our community.

Ben Barton is the superintendent of the Princeton School District. Barton can be reached by email at: ben.barton@isd477.org

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