Arise Academy celebrates opening

ARISE ACADEMY — A ribbon-cutting ceremony involving the Fairmont Area Chamber of Commerce took place Wednesday at Arise Academy in Fairmont. SPEC director Sarah Mittelstadt, left, gives a tour of the renovated school building to Chamber members.

FAIRMONT — A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place Wednesday at Arise Academy, Southern Plains Education Cooperative’s new site in Fairmont.

The former Lincoln School was renovated for $10.8 million with funds from five member school districts. The cooperative provides special education and alternative learning programs to Blue Earth Area, Fairmont Area, Granada-Huntley-East Chain School, Martin County West and United South Central.

While the majority of students who get services from the co-op receive them in their own district, Arise Academy houses several programs for its 90 students. Sarah Mittelstadt, director of SPEC, discussed them.

The Area Learning Center services 30 to 60 students in grades 9-12 at risk of dropping out of high school. Students are able to achieve greater success with smaller class sizes, individualized attention and personalized education.

The Bridges program is for students in grades K-12. These students have social and emotional deficits that lead to behavioral issues in a structured classroom setting. The goal of the program is to help students develop skills so they can continue their education in their home district.

The PALS program involves half-dozen students who are non-verbal and have autism or similar disabilities.

“They can be visually distracted, so we have individual work stations where they can work. We have a swing in the classroom which can help calm students,” Mittelstadt said.

The PAES lab, which stands for Practical Assessment Exploration System, helps students learn career tasks.

“It helps kids get jobs who we never though could get jobs,” Mittelstadt said.

There are 12 classrooms in the building but also a number of other smaller spaces where students can get away and de-stress or calm down. The walls and floors are in shades of blue and gray, which Mittelstadt says are calming colors. There are a variety of seating and desk options throughout the building and in the classrooms.

Current students at Arise include 22 from Blue Earth Area, 29 from Fairmont Area, three from Granada-Huntley-East Chain, six from Martin County West and four from United South Central.

The original plan was for the new facility to be completed in October, with students moving in over MEA break. However, to the staff’s delight, the project was finished at the end of summer and students were able to start the school year in the building.

Several local contractors, including DeWar Electric, Beemer Companies, Kingdom Builders Masonry and Fairmont Glass and Sign, worked on the project.

Arise Academy also boasts a functional living space with a washer and dryer, shower room and a small kitchen. Mittelstadt said 22 percent of students are currently or have been homeless, so the site provides a place to clean up, cook and do laundry.

There are about 40 staff members, including floating substitutes, speech therapists, evaluation specialist, paraprofessionals, behavioral interventionists, mental health staff and 10 teachers.

Of the new facility, Mittelstadt said, “The kids are very excited. Those that were around previously say it’s so much better. It has certainly helped us to be able to accommodate and modify the environment and use it to meet their needs.”

An open house will take place from 4-7 p.m. Jan. 8. Members of the community are invited to tour the site, enjoy refreshments and meet staff.


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