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Hopkins Alternative Program to Leave the Pavilion

The program will be moved to Intermediate District 287’s West Education Center in Minnetonka starting in the 2013-14 school year.

Hopkins Public Schools is moving its Off Campus Pavilion Alternative Program out of the Pavilion next year, which could stretch the financials of a city facility that’s right on the cusp of profitability.

The school district pays the City of Hopkins $50,000 a year to use the Pavilion as a site to teach students who benefit from an off-campus, small-school setting. But starting in the 2013-14, the program will be moved to Intermediate District 287’s West Education Center in Minnetonka, said Nik Lightfoot, the director of administrative services for Hopkins Public Schools.

“287 offers a wider range of programming and services than we are able to offer at the off-campus program,” Lightfoot said.

District 287 is a consortium of 12 west metro school districts, including Hopkins, that serves students with “significant, multiple, and complex needs that cannot be served in our neighborhood schools,” according to the Hopkins school district.

Hopkins Public Schools is investigating whether other district programs could use the facility once the off-campus program leaves, Lightfoot said. If there’s not a good match, the district would terminate its lease when the lease expires Nov. 1.

The Pavilion would have seen a big loss in 2012 without the lease. As it was, the books show a $61,000 loss for the year, leaving its fund with a cash balance of about $36,000. However, that total includes $67,000 of depreciation that’s required to be factored in, said City of Hopkins Finance Director Christine Harkess. Without the depreciation, the facility would’ve had a $6,000 profit.

Harkess said Hopkins residents won’t see any changes in service if the district does terminate its lease—and added that termination of the lease wouldn’t drastically change the facility’s financials.

That’s partly because some of the lease money went toward repaying improvements to the area that the off-campus program uses. But it’s also because the city is hopeful that it can fill the space with other tenants.

Harkess noted that Pavilion management has had success attracting unique events—such as the American Kennel Club’s 2011 Agility World Team Tryouts, the Gopher State Cat Club Cat Show and the Sweet Pickins’ Sale. Freeing up the mezzanine will create more space for events like that.

“Yes, it is going to impact the financials, but now we have some opportunities to offer that space to other people,” she said. “We’re sad to see them go, but we’re hoping we can fill that space with other rentals.”

Terminating the lease will not save the school district any money. Hopkins funds the lease through an arrangement called “levy for lease,” said Katie Williams, the district’s director of community education, communications and marketing. Under this process, districts request permission from the Minnesota Department of Education to collect a levy from taxpayers specifically for renting or leasing buildings or land.

If the lease ends, the district will simply halt the Pavilion’s levy for lease, saving taxpayers a negligible amount on their property tax bills.

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