Pine Harbor Christian Academy Expansion

Posted 9/22/21

By Bruce Karnick [email protected] Pine Harbor Christian Academy Principal Scott Urban has witnessed the growth of PHCA for quite some time, a growth that, while wonderful, has posed a few …

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Pine Harbor Christian Academy Expansion


By Bruce Karnick

[email protected]

Pine Harbor Christian Academy Principal Scott Urban has witnessed the growth of PHCA for quite some time, a growth that, while wonderful, has posed a few logistical challenges, especially with COVID protocols.

“The expansion is a blessing because we’ve been crawling on top of each other, especially with COVID with the common rooms,” Urban explained talking about the common spaces in the school. “We’ve had to come up with schedules, like, Tuesday and Thursday this room is used, but you can use it Wednesday.”

Urban is clear, they are not literally crawling on top of each other, they have the proper room to keep everyone safe and they have been doing all the controllable things like handwashing and sanitizing. He is more referring to the fact that they had to use spaces like the music room for a classroom and music instruction was moved to the adjoining church space.

The new addition is a 70 by 140-foot building which is just shy of an extra 10,000 square feet. The addition is a permanent structure on the south end of the building. The acquisition of the building may have had a bit of divine intervention. The building is actually a set of prefabricated trailers, similar to mobile homes, but designed to be connected. Once installed on the foundation and connected you cannot tell they are trailers. They are significantly less expensive than new construction too. New construction for a school building is over $200 per square foot.

“This [addition] would be like over $2 million, so I started looking at alternatives. I was like looking for one class of pod or something like that, and then I stumbled across this on the internet, you know, you can find anything right, and it was huge and I was like, you couldn’t tell it was used for seven years,” added Urban.

What he found was, the Anoka Hennepin School District has leased this mobile school building to use while their addition was being built. It was just coming off lease and was scheduled to be returned to Indiana. Because PHCA purchased them outright, that saved the leasing company a lot of work, and expenses, so PHCA was able to get free delivery and a great deal, less than half the price of building new. An added bonus was the time it takes to install these versus build. Work started mid-September and they could have the new section open in a few weeks.

The new section will house a group of offices, dedicated, larger bathrooms, four new classrooms and two longer spaces for maybe a lunchroom and a STEM maker space. The configuration options offer great flexibility for PHCA. Getting the installation approved was not easy on Urban, but Washington County and the Cottage Grove city planner were “Fantastic” he said.

“Every time where I thought, oh man that’s a roadblock, [Emily] would come through,” Urban smiled.

They provided a lot of great guidance on how to get things done while meeting the budgetary needs of the school. One of the things that was looked at was the placement of the new building. Anything within 30 feet of the existing structure needs to completely match the style of the structure. So, it was decided to place it 30 feet from the school. The buildings will have a similar look and color scheme, but they won’t be identical. That cut down on costs, but now means a 30-foot walk in the elements.

Urban laughed when he explained his temporary, and approved fix for that, he bought a carport from Costco to give the kids a tunnel this winter. The plans are to have a permanent roof, possibly with open sides, to give shelter to those that move between the buildings. They are even hoping to use the trees they removed to build this walkway.

Speaking of trees, Urban knows they need to replace 140 inches of trees from what they cut down, and they plan to do more than that. They are hoping to plant a variety including maple trees to teach students how to extract syrup.

This expansion is likely just the beginning as Urban is always looking at ways to better serve the families of PHCA, including talks of a potential, future high school. For that to come to fruition, a number of other things need to fall in place over the next 6-10 years. Urbans focus right now is to get the expansion open and paid for.

Finances for the new building came from a refinancing of some of the school’s assets at better rates, so the school will fully own the expansion, as Urban put it, “Either now, or in 20 years depending on how many people give.”

That comment garnered a chuckle out of Urban because of the awesome families and community partners that PHCA has had over the years. Families that work really hard on their fundraisers out of love for what the school as given them and their children.

For now, the 9,800 square foot addition will be a welcome piece of Pine Harbor Christian Academy, for staff, students and parents.