Johnson school to house LEAP


Changes are continuing for area schools. The 2022-2023 academic year will be the last in Midway for LEAP High School. The immigrant-focused program moves out of the Wilson building at 631 N. Albert St. next year and into the former John A. Johnson Elementary at 740 York Ave.
More about future uses for the Wilson building could be known as soon as August.
LEAP serves about 150 refugees and immigrants. The school was spared closure in late 2021. It was one of eight schools eyed for closing as Envision SPPS was rolled out in the face of enrollment declines.
LEAP students and faculty were among the most vocal about saving their program. Their school, Wellstone and Highwood Hills were spared from closing.
LEAP would move into a structure with a long and complex history. The Johnson building was once home to Johnson High School, St. Paul Public Schools’ second-oldest high school. It is the second of three Johnson High School buildings. The oldest part of the building dates from 1910.
High school students moved out in fall 1963, to a new school on Arcade Street. The York Avenue building was used for office space and storage until September 2000 when it was renovated and reopened as an elementary school, John A. Johnson Achievement Plus. In 2001, Eastside YMCA opened adjacent to the school. It also houses an East Side Resource Center, which will stay.
The school board in July reviewed reasons for the LEAP move to Johnson. Although it has been used as an elementary for about two decades, its design is better suited for a high school. The Johnson building has air conditioning, and is located in Payne-Phalen neighborhood where about two-thirds of LEAP students live.
It is also closer to transit than the current Wilson building is. Yet another reason for a move is that the Payne-Phalen site is seen as having other advantages in terms of community partnerships and career programming.
Johnson has enough space to house other programs in the future. It has 111,967 gross square feet, according to the school district website.
What will happen with the Wilson building, which has been in the neighborhood since 1924 and has housed various programs? No decisions have been made, but the school board could get an update as soon as August. Other school district uses are eyed including online school, district support programs or “swing space’ for schools under construction.
Although schools are closing, the district doesn’t plan to sell facilities.
A series of moves began in June and have continued through the summer. The move of Galtier to Hamline is completed, as is the move of Jackson’s programs to Maxfield and Phalen elementaries. Galtier will become the city’s west side early learning hub. Jackson will be vacant for now as there are no immediate plans for reuse.


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