In late May, the Minnesota Transitions Charter School’s secondary facility and district offices were destroyed in the aftermath of civil unrest that rocked the Minneapolis-St. Paul community and beyond. In a fast-track effort to return students to school this fall, DLR Group partnered with MTCS to design an innovative learning environment within the renowned Mall of America.

Minnesota Transitions Charter School in Minneapolis by DLR Group. Rendering © DLR Group.

“The destruction of our offices and school site was tragic, however, it has given us an opportunity to continue rethinking education. It has given us a chance to come back stronger and more innovative than ever,” said Brian Erlandson, Superintendent for MTCS. “This new Mall of America school site allows us to do things differently by offering a variety of learning options for students who have not thrived in a traditional school model. Mall of America represents the center for our community, and we are beyond thrilled to enter into this unique partnership that we believe will create endless possibilities for our students.”

While design and rebuilding efforts are underway at the schools’ original location on East Lake Street, 17,000 SF on the third level at Mall of America has transformed into a dynamic educational space for 150 students in grades 7-12. DLR Group’s design incorporates classrooms, open areas for collaborative activities, and commons areas to display student art. To promote flexibility and collaborative learning, most classroom walls are moveable fabric, and the furniture and teaching equipment are mobile.

“DLR Group professionals who specialize in education and retail design immediately came together after learning of the destruction that occurred at Minnesota Transitions Charter School’s facilities. We shared design expertise to deliver a new space in a matter of months where students and staff can engage in learning,” said DLR Group Principal Sara Guyette, AIA. “MTCS turned a tragedy into an opportunity to rethink education for future generations of students at the Mall of America. We are honored to be part of the journey to help heal and reconnect this school community.”

To begin the 2020-21 school year, students have access to the space for tutoring and support. MTCS continues to evaluate the pandemic’s impact on their school community and in the coming months, officials will determine a date to return to in-person learning. Students also have immediate access to internships at various businesses at the retail and entertainment center, providing greater opportunities to learn through real-life experiences.

DLR Group is currently designing the replacement school on East Lake Street. Construction is scheduled for completion in summer 2021.