Elementary school renaming reflects development, district goals


Gissel Inamagua

North Park School of Innovation, previously known as North Park Elementary School, formally finalized their name change this past February.

North Park Elementary, the name that many residents and students are used to saying in the Columbia Heights community, has changed not only its appearance both inside and out, but also its identity. 

Along with extensive interior and exterior changes as a result of the 2018 bonding bill, the Pre-K through 5th grade school situated in the corner of southeast Fridley has also decided to change its name. The new name? North Park School for Innovation.

“[It was changed to] better reflect our values as a learning community that consistently pushes the boundaries of how students learn and what they need to be prepared for an unpredictable future,” Principal Jeff Cacek said. 

The school has, in recent years, upended the traditional learning model of having about 20-30 kids in a classroom led by a single teacher. Instead, they follow the “learning studio” model, combining a few classrooms, opening up the walls and putting the whole grade together to learn. To match that along with other changes regarding the school, a name change was considered to be the next logical step. 

“The addition of ‘Innovation’ to our moniker fits us well,” Cacek said. “Whether it’s the development of Learning Studios, the addition of sustainable practices to the experience of every student, or the continual practice of creativity and collaboration, North Park’s pioneering spirit has led to one innovation after another.” 

Through all of these exciting but admittedly stressful changes that North Park is experiencing, staff members have maintained their positivity. 

“One of the things I love about North Park is our ability to evolve with current events, technology and cultural shifts,” art teacher Ms. Ariane Kokes said.

In addition to new school alterations last June, North Park got approval from the Columbia Heights Public Schools board to become a STEM-based school. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. With these subjects being the core of the school’s curriculum choices, North Park School for Innovation hopes to become a leading voice for future generations of doctors, engineers and more. 

In addition to all of these sweeping improvements, North Park’s art teacher Ms. Ariane Kokes has been named Teacher of the Year for the district. She began teaching in 2005 and has served the students at North Park for more than 15 years. Despite the challenges of the past year, she is excited to work with her colleagues to push the school forward.

“We can’t fully predict what the world will look like in 20 years from now,” Kokes said. “We can, however, give students an opportunity to learn in an environment where they use creativity and imagination to adapt to current cultural and environmental shifts so that they can be prepared to thrive whatever that future looks like.” 

Great things have been happening at North Park School for Innovation over the past two years, and hopefully there is even more to come, especially as the district prepares for a full return to in-person learning in the fall.