Work ahead of pace at Arise Academy in Fairmont

FAIRMONT — Southern Plains Education Cooperative is making the move from its current home in Winnebago to Fairmont. It is going to be located in the former Lincoln School.

The co-op is a joint powers organization that provides special education and alternative learning programs to five area school districts: Blue Earth Area, Fairmont Area, Granada-Huntley-East Chain, Martin County West and United South Central.

The location change is due to the fact that the Winnebago site required extensive maintenance. The facilities committee recommended buying the former Lincoln School building, renovating it and adding on to accommodate all the programs the school offers.

The new school, which will be called Arise Academy, will be home to 80 students. Construction and renovations on the building in Fairmont began in January. While the project was expected to be completed in October, with students switching over to the new building after MEA break, they will actually move in sooner, despite all the snow and rain over the past six months.

“We’re actually a little head of schedule. The renovation portion will be set to start so we’ll be able to get into the renovated portion when school starts, although it will be very tight,” said Dr. Sarah Mittelstadt, SPEC’s director.

The addition won’t be completed until October. It consists of office space for staff, as well as several more classrooms.

The renovation began right away as the building was not up to code. Classrooms were divided into smaller rooms to fit the needs of students.

Mittelstadt said every day has been important. The contractors work five days per week but she said there have been a few times that they come to work on a Saturday.

The main contractors on the project all happen to be local. They are DeWar Electric, Beemer Companies, Kingdom Builders Masonry and Fairmont Glass and Sign. Mittelstadt said they are also purchasing some items from Riverbend.

The cost of the project is about $10.8 million and will be paid for by the five school districts, depending on how many students receive SPEC’s services. The cost of the project has not changed significantly since it began, but Mittelstadt said unexpected things always come up when you’re renovating a building. There are some reserved funds for those surprises.

“We’ve had some significant basement flooding. They moved the boiler upstairs and we won’t be using the basement,” Mittelstadt noted.

Aside from construction and renovations, the school will be getting some new amenities. Mittelstadt said they sampled some furniture earlier because the needs of the students are so unique.

“The students had some more input in it although the board approved the budget,” she said.

There’s a wide variety of furniture, including standing desks, chairs that rock, stools and some soft furniture. Matching paint colors in calming colors were selected with the students in mind.

Mittelstadt said most of the staff from the previous facility is making the move. Three of them have purchased homes in Fairmont as a result of the move.

“We will be working with the city of Fairmont. We’re hoping that we can work out an arrangement for a school resource officer part time. We’re working with Fairmont school district’s food service company,” Mittelstadt said.

Member districts are responsible for transporting students to school so that system won’t change, just the distance some students travel.

“Overall it’s gone very well. It’s better for our students to not have that additional transition so we’re really happy with the progress,” Mittelstadt said.


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