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Genesis Academy excited for new site

By Staff | Jul 12, 2020

Mikaela Bonnema, Makenna and Avery Krause are shown, left to right, exploring the new GCA site in Winnebago.

Genesis Classical Academy (GCA) had been looking for a new home and thought they had found one in the former Winnebago School buildings.

But, at a Winnebago City Council meeting on April 14, the council voted to sell the old school to Veteran Enterprises of Madelia instead.

It did not take long for another opportunity to develop.

“Within two weeks of the April 14 council meeting when Veteran Enterprises bought the former school buildings, we learned the Adolescent Treatment Center (ATC) would be closing,” GCA ?Headmaster Renee Doyle says. “We toured the facility five or six times. We had to be sure of the space viability and get a building inspector to check things out.”

After performing their due diligence, GCA submitted a letter of intent to purchase the facility to the United Hospital District (UHD), the owners of the treatment center.

This photo shows the gym at the new site with three students from GCA. Pictured, front to back, are Emily Stensland, Lindsey Lawrence and Emma Lawrence.

“The generosity of our donors at just the right time helped this become a reality,” Doyle comments referring to the purchase of the ATC. “It was one of the most pleasant transactions I have been involved with. Rick Ash (CEO) from UHD was wonderful to work with.”

Homestead Realty facilitated the transaction and the closing date was June 30, according to Doyle.

GCA wasted no time getting to work and has already done some concrete work and had a sign installed by the building’s front entrance. They also hosted an open house on Tuesday night, July 7, so people could view the facility before the remodeling begins.

The building is less than 10 years old having been completed in August of 2010. It is approximately 18,000 square feet and was built to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, which is a “green” building certification program designed to increase energy-efficiency, sustainability and improved indoor environmental quality. The campus sits on 3.8 acres.

GCA has made their home in part of the Parker Oaks/Heartland Senior Living facility for the last five years.

“It will be sad to see them leave,” Chris Knoll, executive with Heartland, says. “The inter-generational activity prior to COVID was a blessing for the elderly and the children.”

Knoll also addressed the issue of the empty space created by GCA leaving.

“Heartland will forge ahead with re-working the space,” Knoll says. “Some original thoughts are to turn it back into apartments as it was years ago. Another idea is to provide some community exercise classes for people to attend. We have also tossed around the idea of senior dining.”

Bill Erickson, president of the Heartland Senior Living board offered his thoughts.

“It is very timely,” Erickson notes. “GCA moving out comes at a time when we are at capacity in Winnebago so we will have some options on what we can do with that space.”

The people attending the GCA open house last Tuesday were excited to have their own facility.

“This building fits our needs through the ninth grade,” Doyle shares. “We will need more space for three additional grades and would also like to expand our labs, music and art programs.”

Doyle shares the school uses the Kodaly method to teach music, named after Hungarian Zoltan Kodaly, and children learn to sing on pitch at a very young age.

“Our students also have three years of piano and guitar,” Doyle says.

The purchase of the former ATC is just the beginning of what GCA hopes to accomplish in the future.

“This completes phase one of our plan, which was to own our own facility,” Doyle explains. “Phase two will be the building of a multi-purpose building with a full-size basketball court with room for seating, and also adding more classrooms. Phase three will be overall expansion.”

GCA was founded in 2015 and has just completed their fifth year of operation.

“We had a goal of having 100 students by 2020 and we are very close to achieving that target,” Doyle comments.

Right now the focus is on preparing the new location so it is ready for the first day of classes this fall, on Sept. 8.

“We are removing some walls and making eight rooms into four rooms,” Doyle says. “There is some reengineering which was necessary because of where the load bearing walls were located.”

Doyle says there are many volunteers who are assisting with the work.

“We have the licensed contractors but we also have parents and community members who come and help out,” Dolye notes. “Our volunteers will also help us move out of our old facility at Parker Oaks and then clean it.”

Community support and people willing to help out have been a big part of GCA’s success, according to Doyle.

“We are not here to replace public education,” Doyle shares. “We offer an alternative. We want to be partners in providing quality education for the youth in the area.”