BEA approves SPEC move

BLUE EARTH — The Blue Earth Area school board on Monday approved the Southern Plains Education Cooperative (SPEC) moving to Fairmont.

SPEC is a joint powers organization that provides special education and ALC programs to six districts in the area: Blue Earth Area, Fairmont Area, Granada Huntley East Chain, Martin County West, Truman and United South Central.

SPEC is currently located in the elementary school building in Winnebago. The co-op moved to Winnebago about three years ago with the idea that the location was only a temporary solution due to several significant maintenance concerns.

The former Lincoln School building in Fairmont, previously owned by Fairmont Area Schools, has been chosen as a possible new location for SPEC. The building requires a number of renovations, such as repairs to the parking lot and the addition of four classrooms. The cost for the project is estimated at $10,526,390.

The cost will be divided among the six districts, with 70 percent of the cost to each district based on the enrollment of the schools and 30 percent based on the district’s usage of the co-op.

BEA is the second school district to vote on the move, with the GHEC school board approving it last week. Each district will have to approve the project for it to move forward.

Many school board members voiced their concerns about the proposed move. Board member Jeremy Coxworth said that he was worried about all the schools being able to pay for their part of the project.

“I’m just a little uneasy on this whole project over in Fairmont,” said Coxworth.

Board member Sara Hauskins said that she is concerned about the district’s ability to fund the SPEC project in addition to planned BEA maintenance projects, such as the high school parking lot. Board member Amber Patten agreed.

“I’m still not comfortable with the numbers,” said Patten.

Other school board members showed their support for the project. Board member Frankie Bly said that he trusted those in charge of the project to make the right decisions, and that the board should move forward with the move.

“We have students that we need to serve, and I think we’re not serving them to the best of our ability right now, and so I would strongly encourage us to move forward,” said Bly.

The BEA school board passed SPEC’s move to Fairmont with a 4-3 vote.