New charter school will reuse buildings at Fort Snelling

A new public charter school will restore and reuse nine historic buildings at Fort Snelling State Park.

The Upper Mississippi Academy will open later this year and eventually enroll about 1,380 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

Teachers will integrate the environment into the curriculum, said Brian Blue, the future school's director.

"For example, in our shelter shop, in the former territorial jail, we'll have two cranes - two-ton cranes with chain hoists, and we'll do timber framing - no nails, just massive joinery," Blue said. "We'll start when students are in geometry and with 19th-century chisels and slicks, they do the joinery. And then as a community we have a raising."

Blue also said students will study subjects including design, engineering, chemistry and horticulture with on-site gardens, textile mills and a boat launch.

"Our director of design has students either on the river, at the river or in the river at least a day and a half every month. That's their classroom -- in a canoe," he said.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources chose the Upper Mississippi school for the site out of five ideas submitted in response to a request for proposals. Fort Snelling is a former military post built in 1825 on a bluff overlooking the Minnesota River Valley. The buildings there, including a hospital, morgue and barracks, have been vacant for four decades.

The school will start renovations this summer.

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