New Building and New Beginnings
Group breaks ground for new Setting IV education facility in Little Falls
Hard hats and shovels were the order of the day as educators, community members, business professionals, and others from throughout the area gathered in Little Falls Wednesday to break ground for Mid-State Education District's new Setting IV facility.
The roughly 35,000-square foot, state-of-the-art building is slated to open in September 2019 and will serve students from Mid-State Education District's member districts with unique needs requiring a specialized learning environment. Member districts include the Onamia, Pierz, Royalton, Swanville, and Upsala school districts, as well as a facility partnership with the Little Falls Community School.
According to Mid-State Executive Director Simoine Bolin, the cutting-edge facility will include student neighborhoods specific to elementary, middle school, high school, and multiply-impaired students.
With the help of a design team consisting of Mid-State representatives, as well as professionals from Nor-Son Construction, the Gordian Group, and ORB Management, each ‘neighborhood’ within the facility has been designed with age- and disability-appropriate areas for sensory and behavior regulation, a lunchroom, and spaces to meet recreation needs. Also included is an area for transition-aged students between 17- and 21-years-old who will participate in career exploration and job skills training and coaching. Bolin said Mid-State anticipates serving around 85 students in the new facility with approximately 45 program staff, as well as additional child-specific staff.
“It is with patience and peaceful waiting that we look forward to the big equipment, the work to clear our site, the construction crews to begin their work, and the welcoming of students in the fall of 2019,” Bolin told all in attendance at Wednesday afternoon's groundbreaking. “I want you all to clap for each other, because it's you who made this possible.”
Paul Drange, Director of Regional Programs at Sourcewell, was on hand along with a handful of Sourcewell representatives and board members to help celebrate the reality of a longtime dream of Bolin and Mid-State staff. Sourcewell committed $5 million to the project.
“I like to tell stories,” Drange began, “and I think what started our story here today, Simoine, going back to our meeting in October 2016, was about how we could work more intentionally together with facilities. And that's the conversation that brought us down a winding road all the way to today. As part of that journey, Simoine was very intentional about saying to me, 'you need to see these facilities that our staff works in and that our kids go to every day. I want to show you what we have and I want to show you what is possible.”
Drange said he had the opportunity to travel around the state with Bolin and others to visit similar facilities and take the best of each to help create one unique school where children can learn and thrive in a safe, and productive, environment.
“I'm especially excited for the staff at Mid-State for what you will have here in 12 to 13 months, or hopefully sooner than that, to serve these kids in this building,” Drange added. “It's just as exciting as anything we do at Sourcewell – to see that come to fruition.”
Greg Zylka, Mayor of Little Falls and Sourcewell Board member, spoke before the crowd praising all parties involved for their dedication and perseverance in providing quality opportunities for students.
“Thank you for choosing this site and this community,” he said. “I think it's a great addition to the community. I think it's also a great addition for all children involved; not only in this school (district), but in every school (district) taking part in this.”
Recognizing Sourcewell for its contribution to the project, as a Board member Zylka said he's often asked where Sourcewell expends its resources.
“When we're at conferences, people say ‘what do you do with the money you make.’ This is it. We reinvest in communities and children. What better way?”
Once complete, this facility will allow, for the first time since Mid-State Education District was formed in 1971, its programs to be located under one roof. Currently, students are taught in multiple settings including Little Falls, Onamia, and Upsala. Bolin said the new facility and location will lend to recruiting and retaining special education staff, as well as provide a centralized location to benefit time for student transportation, and create efficiencies for the facility and member districts.
“Mid-State Education staff have shown the ultimate in flexibility over the years, and have faithfully served our member districts across multiple settings,” Bolin noted. “This building gives us the chance to create spaces for professionalizing what our team does, with spaces to collaborate and train, to ensure each student receives the most personalized and supportive learning environment and experience we can provide.”
Sourcewell (formerly National Joint Powers Alliance) is a self-supporting government organization, partnering with education, government, and nonprofits to boost student and community success. Created in 1978 as one of Minnesota's nine service cooperatives, we offer training and shared services to our central-Minnesota members. Throughout North America, we offer a cooperative purchasing program with over 300 awarded vendors on contract. Sourcewell is driven by service and the ability to strategically reinvest in member communities.