The Harrison Neighborhood Association (HNA) has been around for 35 years. The organization aims to improve the lives of residents within the North Minneapolis neighborhood, occupied by mostly people of color.
Headquarters of the Harrison Neighborhood Association are located within the same building as Harrison High School, known as the Harrison Education Center. The Laos Assistance Center is located in the same building. The Harrison Center was designed for students that are underperforming in a traditional school settings or have behavioral issues. To increase accommodations for student mental health, the school intends to expand their classroom space to include the offices of the HNA.
For Nicole Buehler, executive director of HNA, this is difficult news. “It’s no way to treat a community,” she stated. Buehler and other board members at the HNA are scrambling to find a solution. “It’s gonna be hard to try and find the money to be able to pay a lease here in Harrison at this point,” she said.
Related story: Mpls Schools postpones action on Harrison Assn. eviction
Since the association is struggling to afford a new space, they are trying to reason with the school board. “I asked principal Hampton if he’d be willing to sit down with me to see what that partnership might look like, and how we can maybe come to some sort of solution. Buehler said. “Initially he agreed, and then I heard back from him that I should direct all meeting requests to the COO [chief operating officer] of MPS.”
The Minneapolis School Board was set to address the issue at its last meeting, but that did not happen. Buelher feels that the HNA has not been treated fairly throughout this process. “We’ve been receiving pretty hostile treatment from the district. We were completely shut out of any decision making.”
HNA is trying to fight its looming eviction by spreading awareness. According to HNA, there is enough room in the alternative high school to accommodate new students. The Center already has 50,000 square feet of space. HNA questions why there is a need for more room, since the school is currently not at capacity.
Buehler also feels that the school needs to focus more on reducing the number of students. “They’re supposed to be, to the best of their ability, mainstreaming these students. They’re not supposed to be growing their numbers. The goal, as I understand it, is to shrink those numbers so that students are in the mainstream as much as possible.”
Harrison has come under the scrutiny in the past over its effectiveness in addressing the needs of its student population. Two previous principals of the Center who say the environment is dangerous and there is no focus on academics have recommended the school be closed. Administrators from Harrison did not respond to MSR’s request for comment.
“Our lease has expired,” said Buehler. “We were going month to month. Technically, they could have us out by the end of the year. They did offer us the ability to stay until the end of June of 2020 because they say they don’t need the space until next school year.
“Hopefully they won’t try and force us out in the next couple of weeks. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, but you never know.”