Hiawatha Charter Schools Close Campuses
The Executive Director of Hiawatha Academies, Colette Owens, submitted a proposal to consolidate the elementary program at the Northrop location and close Hiawatha Leadership Academies - Morris Park (HLA-Morris Park). The news was shared during the investor call on December 14, 2020.
The Northrop and Morris Park facilities were purchased as part of the City of Minneapolis's $21.8 mln lease revenue bond transaction in 2016.
Hiawatha Academies is a Minnesota public charter school in its thirteenth year of operation. Hiawatha enrolls approximately 1555 students across its four campuses.
Ms. Owens provided an overview of the key reasons for the proposal, "Over the past several years, Hiawatha has made significant investments in student recruitment; however, given current population trends and the education market, we have not been able to significantly increase enrollment. The net increase in the past two years has been ~45 students each year across the network. The decline has been most dramatic at HLA-Morris Park, specifically at the KG grade level for the past 3 years. Continued decreasing enrollment at a key enrollment entry point has a ripple effect over the years at the higher grade levels."
Due to under-enrollment, Hiawatha loses more than $600K a year in state funding, in the form of lease aid, which is designed to offset facilities costs. Currently, these costs are covered by Hiawatha's general operating fund, reducing the funds available for programmatic investments to focus on improving student academic outcomes.
Assuming Hiawatha continues to see a similar enrollment trend and maintains its same facilities and program configuration, the annual deficit will grow each year.
On January 13, 2021, the board voted in favor of the proposal, which subject to BH approval, includes the sale of the HLA-Morris Park facility.
During FY2022-23 and FY2023-24, Ms. Owens will vacate the leased property and complete the unification of Hiawatha’s middle school program at the Northrop campus. Upon completion of the process, Hiawatha’s entire program will be housed in properties supported by the bond. In the first column below is the FY2020-21 enrollment total as of December 16, 2020. This total is per the MN Department of Education. The next four columns are the enrollment projections for FY22 through FY25.