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BEA hears of SPEC plan to leave W’bago

By Staff | May 13, 2018

Dr. Sarah Mittelstadt, director of the Southern Plains Education Cooperative, attended the Blue Earth Area School Board’s work session on Friday, May 4. The purpose of her visit was to discuss the possibility of moving alternative education programs from their current location in Winnebago, over to Fairmont.

As part of her report, Mittelstadt explained the purchase of the former Lincoln School building in Fairmont would be a more economical option than keeping the alternative education programs at the former Winnebago School, its current location.

As both buildings are in need of restoration, Mittelstadt cited a 2014 Springsted Incorporated facility study which suggests the Lincoln building would cost $3 million less to renovate. Additionally, the report states renovation plans for the Winnebago building only address maintenance issues of the structure, not the unique needs of the Southern Plains alternative programs.

Renovation and addition plans to the Lincoln building will include parking lot repairs, heating and ventilation upgrades, as well as the addition of approximately four classrooms.

An estimate provided by Kraus-Anderson Construction indicates the approximate cost of the project will total $10,526,390. Member districts which include Blue Earth Area, Fairmont, Granada-Huntley-East Chain, Martin County West, Truman and United South Central, would be responsible to help fund the possible project.

According to data provided by Mittelstadt, 70 percent of the project’s funding would be allocated based on total student enrollment, while the remaining 30 percent would be determined by how frequently each district utilizes the programs. Mittelstadt targets the fall of 2019 as a possible opening date for the Lincoln building.

These alternative education programs have been in Winnebago since the spring of 2015. The Area Learning Center, which is one of those programs, provides services to students from grades 9-12 who are at risk of dropping out of high school.

Another alternative education program, the Positive Approach to Learning, or PALS, is designed for special education students from K-12 who suffer from autism or similar symptoms of the disorder.

Also at the work session, Blue Earth Area Elementary and Middle School principal Melissa McGuire revealed K-5 enrollment will drop from 471 in spring 2018 to 459 in fall 2018.

The largest decrease in enrollment during that time span will occur in the second grade, as a total of 86 students in the spring will drop to 63 in the fall. The total number of sections will also be dropping from 23 to 21 at that time.