Two new downtown school buildings and a new parking facility – collectively named the Minneapolis Education Center – will be dedicated at a ceremony that will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23. The center is located on 10th Street between Hennepin and LaSalle avenues.

Located on a half-block site on the north side of 10th, the Minneapolis Education Center consists of:

  • The Interdistrict Downtown School, located on the northeast corner of 10th and Hennepin, is a K-12 school built by the West Metro Education Program, a consortium of nine Minneapolis area school districts. It is the first elementary or high school built in the downtown area in more than 70 years.
  • Opus Hall, located on the northwest corner of 10th and LaSalle, is the new home of the University of St. Thomas School of Education.
  • The Hennepin at 10th Municipal Parking Ramp is a three-level, 640-car public parking ramp that the city of Minneapolis built and now operates beneath the two school buildings.

The dedication is free and open to the public. The ceremony will be followed by a light lunch and tours. Reservations are not required, but those with questions are invited to call (651) 962-4000.

The dedication’s keynote speaker will be Dr. James Comer, the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine’s Child Study Center. Described by the New York Times last year as “one of the most celebrated school innovators of his time,” Comer is an African American whose thinking is central to the development of the Interdistrict Downtown School. He founded in 1968 a School Development Program that brings together parents, educators and the community to improve social, emotional and academic success. He is the author of six books; the most recent, published in 1997, is Waiting for a Miracle – Why Schools Can’t Solve Our Problems – And How We Can.

Also speaking briefly at the ceremony will be:

  • From the Interdistrict Downtown School: Dr. Barbara Shin, principal; eighth grader Christopher Gilbert; teachers Jane Lentz and Stanley Brown; and parent Becky Herke;
  • From the St. Thomas School of Education: Dr. Richard Podemski, dean; Dr. Robert Brown, professor in the Educational Leadership Department; and Margo Lloyd, a doctoral student in the critical pedagogy program and associate professor of education at North Central University.

The dedication will have “hands” as its theme, taken in part from the many hand imprints made directly into the exterior wall of the Interdistrict Downtown School. The imprints were created from molds made last year of the school’s students, parents and teachers. Hands, used on the dedication’s invitation, symbolize creating and active learning, giving, accepting, helping, communicating, joining and partnerships.

The Minneapolis Education Center can trace its origins to a metro desegregation agreement that was reached 10 years ago by the boards of the Minneapolis Public Schools and several suburban school districts. That agreement led to the creation, by Minneapolis and its eight contiguous suburban school districts, of the West Metro Education Program and a proposal to create three interdistrict magnet schools.

In 1996 St. Thomas and WMEP began exploring possibilities for a joint downtown project proposed for a site directly north of St. Thomas’ existing downtown campus. In March 1997 plans were announced for the Interdistrict Downtown School, Opus Hall and the city parking ramp following Minneapolis City Council approval of a proposal to purchase the land and build and operate the ramp.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the three-part project was held in October 1997.

The school districts received a $10 million state appropriation for its 102,500-square-foot Interdistrict Downtown School. It was designed by the Cuningham Group and built by Knutson Construction Services.

The $14.5 million, 98,000-square-foot St. Thomas building was named Opus Hall in recognition of a $2 million gift toward the project from the Opus Corporation. Opus built the St. Thomas building and parking ramp, with Opus Architects and Engineers designing those projects.

The Interdistrict Downtown School this fall enrolls 471 students in grades K through 9. Over the next three years, the school will add grades 10, 11 and 12.

At Opus Hall, the St. Thomas School of Education enrolls each semester about 1,000 graduate students and about 400 undergraduates. The school offers 14 master’s degrees, three education specialist degrees and three doctorates. At the undergraduate level, the school offers programs in elementary and secondary education. The school also is home to the Collaborative Urban Educator program under which people of color receive teaching licenses.

Opus Hall

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