Innovative Facilities

“Carefully-designed facilities combined with an engaging, educational program and highly-trained staff equate to better academic, social, and behavioral outcomes for our students."  -Dr. Val Rae Boe, Superintendent

Karner Blue Interior

Karner Blue Education Center
3764 95th Avenue NE
Blaine, MN 55014 (map of location)
Grades: K-8
Opened 2014

Pankalo exterior

Pankalo Education Center
8568 Eagle Point Blvd
Lake Elmo, MN 55042 (map of location)
Grades: K-8
Opened 2017

Quora interior

Quora Education Center
70 West County Road B2
Little Canada, MN 55117 (map of location)
Grades: 9-12+
Opened 2018

Between 2012 and 2018, Northeast Metro 916 built three state-of-the-art learning facilities designed specifically for students with special needs. This was the first major district-wide facilities overhaul since the late 1980s when special education additions were constructed at member district schools.

The schools have been specially designed to meet the needs of students who learn best in a supportive and safe environment, free of auditory and visual distractions found in many typical school facilities. Our students enjoy:

  • An abundance of natural lighting throughout the buildings

  • Flexible learning spaces for small-group or one-on-one instruction

  • Sensory rooms with colored lighting and student-controlled music and sounds

  • Full-size gym, cardio, and weightlifting rooms

  • Indoor playgrounds

  • Soft, movable furniture

  • The latest in assistive and educational technology

  • and more

Design process

The school district participated in a design charrette with families, students, member districts, related services staff and mental health support staff. Incorporating the input of a variety of stakeholders was crucial to our success.

The architects did several observations in our other schools and programs. They talked to students about what they would like to see in a school and spoke with key community members who were involved in mental health and disability advocacy.

We visited day treatment centers in the upper midwest to learn from best practices in the area, but we believe we have something unique here at 916.

Our success

Since the first building opened in 2014, we have seen significant improvements among our elementary students in terms of student achievement, emotional/behavioral control and social adaptation.

Our teachers report that they are less focused on behavior management, and more focused on teaching. They experience less emotional and physical stress and they feel supported and happier.

Our families report that their students want to come to school and they are proud of their accomplishments.


Our three buildings are not enough to serve all students, so we want to share our experiences and expertise with other school districts so they can replicate them.

Talking about our new school buildings, and sharing our work, is crucial to our mission of responding to the unique needs of students, educators, and school districts with innovation, quality, and trusted experience.

Our hope is that by sharing our successes, we can contribute to better outcomes for students not just in the Northeast Metro of the Twin Cities, but across the nation.

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