A small, private, international high school that had been based at Hamline University since its founding in 2003 is moving into Galtier Plaza in downtown St. Paul this fall.
The renamed St. Paul Preparatory School (previously known as Nacel International School) will have 11 large classrooms, a computer lab, office space, student activity space, storage and glassed-in hallways, in addition to its own lobby and entry, all on Galtier’s first floor.
A related organization, Nacel Open Door, which coordinates student exchanges around the country, will have office space on Galtier’s second floor. Altogether, the organization will use 20,000 square feet in the building.
The school has about 130 students from 23 countries; about 10 are from the United States, mostly the Twin Cities area.
Students from outside the area live with host families; the school sponsors clubs and activities, in addition to a rigorous class schedule.
Curriculum stresses rigor, critical thinking skills
The curriculum, according to the school’s website, “infuses the state and national standards in every subject area with International Education principles. International Education is an approach to learning that is focused on the critical thinking skills necessary for individuals to function successfully in intercultural contexts.”
Students also can take advanced classes at the University of St. Thomas through a partnership. In past years, they had taken such classes at Hamline.
Nacel, the school’s former name, came from its parent organization’s roots as the North Atlantic Cultural Exchange League. School officials also note that in French, nacelle is the word for the basket that hangs below a hot-air balloon, symbolizing that the school could carry you to far-away worlds.
Galtier Plaza has had a checkered history since opening in 1986 in St. Paul’s Lowertown district. The whole-block development included apartment and condo towers and a YMCA, with its lower levels intended as a shopping mall. It failed to hold as a shopping destination, and financial difficulties plagued the developer. In recent years, it has transitioned largely into an office building, plus the LoTo restaurant on the east end facing Mears Park, and a small food court.
Another high school on the other end of downtown St. Paul, the St. Paul Conservatory of Performing Arts, opened in Landmark Center in 2005. It’s a charter school for grades 9 to 12 and offers a full high school curriculum, with emphasis on performing arts. It had about 370 students last year.
Also downtown is the St. Paul Public Schools’ Wellstone Elementary School on Kellogg Boulevard.