Minnesota Transitions Charter School opens space at MOA after school was destroyed in riots

BLOOMINGTON, MN - OCTOBER 14: North entrance to Mall Of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. (Raymond Boyd/Getty Images / Getty Images)

Minnesota Transitions Secondary School was located in a shopping center across the street from the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct and was damaged and looted during riots in May following George Floyd’s death.

“It was heartbreaking and devastating. We’re fortunate because we can replace everything. George Floyd, we can’t replace his life so I don’t want to overshadow that, but it was painful for the whole community. The whole world for that matter,” Minnesota Transitions Charter School Superintendent Brian Erlandson said.

The location off of Lake St. and Minnehaha Ave. is one of eight MTCS locations. That site served as a secondary school, serving around more than 150 students in seventh through twelfth grades. Erlandson says a majority of those students are students of color.

“To think about 170 already underserved students not having a school to attend it was just heart breaking,” Erlandson said.

When officials at the Mall of America heard MTCS needed space for their students, they donated 17,000 square feet of space on the third floor, near the foot court.

“The MTCS mission and their collective efforts to offer students a new way to thrive is incredibly inspiring. The way they have reimagined education aligns with our approach to retail and entertainment,” said Jill Renslow, EVP of Business Development and Marketing for Mall of America.

The Mall of America gave the school a blank slate, allowing MTCS to design flexible learning spaces with social distance in mind. Furniture for the school was donated by Ikea.

MTCS Secondary School students are learning entirely online to start the school year. Educators are slowly welcoming students into the space for tutoring sessions. Erlandson says they hope to welcome all students back by mid-October.

Educators with MTCS say, they can’t ignore the reason they are using space at the Mall of America and not their school in South Minneapolis. This, in itself, is a learning lesson.

“Identifying the fact that this happened, it’s a real thing, and what can we do to make it better? And if every person can do their part hopefully someday we get it to be not the Minneapolis that some people thought it was but the Minneapolis we want it to be,” MTCS Secondary School Principal Shawn Fondow said.

MTCS is working with the Mall of America to partner on internship and real-world learning opportunities for students while they’re using the temporary mall space and long after.

Currently, a new school is  being built in South Minneapolis at the site of the old location. Erlandson said he hope to move into that space before the end of this school year.