‘Arise’ renovates new home

FIXER UPPER — A crew works on the outside of the former Lincoln School building in Fairmont. The site will be the new home of Southern Plains Education Cooperative, under the name Arise Academy.

FAIRMONT — Southern Plains Education Cooperative, currently located in Winnebago, will transition to Fairmont later this year.

The alternative learning center will move into the former Lincoln School building, which is undergoing renovations.

The co-op is a joint powers organization that provides special education and alternative learning programs to six area school districts: Blue Earth Area, Fairmont Area, Granada-Huntley-East Chain, Martin County West, Truman and United South Central. However, Truman has opted out of the cooperative for the next school year.

In recent years, the SPEC board has discussed facility options because the Winnebago site required extensive maintenance. The facilities committee recommended buying the Lincoln School building, renovating it and adding on in order to accommodate all programs.

“What others called the Lincoln building, we now call Arise Academy,” said Dr. Sarah Mittelstadt, SPEC’s director. The school’s mascot will be a Phoenix.

All of the districts receiving services from the co-op had to agree to the remodeling plans before the process began.

Mittelstadt said Sentence to Service crews have been working in the building for quite some time, as there was a lot left behind by former tenants. The crews have been removing items and conducting some minor demolition.

“About two weeks ago, things started full-steam ahead,” Mittelstadt said. “Now they’re doing a full range of demolition, including electrical and removal all of the old doors, and they’re knocking down some walls to prepare for other changes.”

When it comes to keeping all the districts updated on the project, Mittelstadt said there is a board comprised of one member from each school district. The group meets regularly for consultation.

There are several local contractors working on the renovations, something that was important to the board. They are: DeWar Electric, Beemer Companies, Kingdom Builders Masonry and Fairmont Glass and Sign.

“While the building is a great structural building and in good condition, it really wasn’t up to code so that’s all being redone,” Mittelstadt explained. “We’re also dividing many of the classrooms into smaller size rooms because the needs of our students are such that many need to be able to have a small space that they can go to.”

An addition will allow for office spaces and more classrooms.

The bulk of the Southern Plains staff works in the member districts, but the main office, currently located at 201 E. Third St. in Fairmont, will make its new home in Arise Academy, along with the roughly 80 students who attend the alternative learning center.

Cost of the project is estimated at $10.8 million and will be paid for by the five districts receiving SPEC’s services. Mittelstadt said the cost has not changed significantly since the renovations began.

“Luckily, bids came in very favorably, so it’s likely under budget, but the winter weather might lead to us have some additional issues but it’s too early to tell,” she said.

While Mittelstadt said she would like for everyone to be in the building at the start of the next school year, the goal is to finish up in October 2019, and then everyone would move in over MEA break.