Grand opening held for new school in Minnewaukan

Minnewaukan Public School held a grand opening ceremony Monday for a new school that is well away from flooding from nearby Devils Lake.

“Probably one of the things I love the absolute most is our cafeteria,” said elementary school principal Jean Callahan. “It faces to our west and it’s glass floor to ceiling windows. The view is just amazing.”

Callahan said students eating their lunches will be able to look out those windows and see the lake, but they no longer have to worry about floodwaters lapping at their parking lot and athletic field.

The school is located about 1 1/12 miles from the site of the original school. In the spring, new residential housing will also start going up in the neighborhood.

Callahan said the building is located on 40 acres. It is a one-story building with three educational wings, one for preschool through grade 2, one for grades 3 through 6 and one for grades 7 through 12.

“There are smart boards in every classroom,” said Callahan. “When our other school was built the Internet was never heard of, so we had wires coming out of every wall.”

The new school is built for 21st century education.

Callahan said there are some remnants of the former school within the new building. Shelves from the old school were installed in the new library and will be refaced in the summer to improve their appearance.

She said the school gymnasium is wonderful.

The school was built through a combination of funds. The school district received a $6 million Impact Aid Grant and more than $500,000 in State Aid Grants from the state. Additional financing was New Market Tax Credits. Travois New Markets provided $11.2 million in New Market Tax Credits and Chase, Community Development Banking provided $2 million in New Market Tax Credits. Chase also acted as the investor, purchasing the tax credits and providing more than $4.1 million in equity for the faciltiy. Northland Securities helped the school district through the process and in issuing two other financing methods: more than $1 million in Impact Aid certificates from the U.S. Department of Education’s Impact Aid Program, according to a press release from Travois New Markets. The district sought its help when it was unable to use flood insurance as collateral on a conventional loan. The New Markets Tax Credit Program is intended to encourage private investments in low-income communities. It is administered by the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The rising Devils Lake floodwaters have threatened the school and the rest of Minnewaukan for the past several years.

Callahan said that the old school is standing empty for now, though there is some talk of turning it into office space if it is not swallowed up by the lake. If the school is flooded the district will have the building torn down and will be able to collect on flood insurance.