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Friday, June 6, 2014


Memorial Day is often held to be the unofficial first day of summer and, for me, that’s always confirmed by the Pratt School Ice Cream Social, held each year on the Friday after Memorial Day.  The social, which celebrates the Prospect Park neighborhood in Minneapolis, is also a fundraiser for programming at the school.

Pratt school, named for Sydney Pratt, is the oldest Building in the Minneapolis Public School system that is still in use as a school, and has an interesting history of transformation and resurrection. 

The school first opened in 1898 with one teacher and an enrollment of 37 students.  The school continued to grow to its all time high enrollment of 600 students in the 1960’s, but as with many small schools, its enrollment began to shrink as the Baby Boomers passed through.  It was eventually closed as an elementary school in 1982.

The "Witch's Hat" Water Tower stands guard over the neighborhood."

A view of Pratt School from the "Witch's Hat" Water Tower across the street.

The building immediately reopened in 1983 as a community education center, which served neighborhood residents of all ages, races, incomes, and social backgrounds.  By the late 1990’s the neighborhood saw a sharp increase in the number children living there and part of the education center was designated for elementary education programs.

The Morris Dancers . . .

. . . always add lots of fun . . .

. . . to the festivities.

After the building was remodeled extensively, including new windows and a new playground, Kindergarten and First Grade classrooms were added and the school was able to reopen in the fall of 2000.

Hundreds of people waited in line for a chance to go up in the tower.

The Ice Cream Social is the only day of the year that the tower is open.

From 2000 until 2006, the school added one new grade level each year until it reached its current K-5 status.  Later, beginning with the 2007-2008 school year, the programs at the former Tuttle Elementary School were merged into Pratt.  This merger doubled Pratt’s enrollment.

One of the music groups that provided entertainment throughout the evening.

Following its closure in the 1980's the residents of Prospect Park fought to preserve the building and eventually saved it from a scheduled demolition, which made this story of resurrection possible, and today the school serves a diverse, multi-cultural population with English Language Learners making up 20% of its enrollment.

The Prospect Park community takes a great deal of pride in Pratt School, and that is witnessed each year as they come out in throngs to support the Pratt Ice Cream Social.

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