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Prairie View will be demolished; Lindgren sold

Lindgren Early Learning Center currently houses pre-kindergarten programs: the Ellsworth Community School District Early Childhood Program, the Ellsworth Four-Year-Old Kindergarten Program called Panther Pre-School, and the CESA #11 Head Start Program. It will be sold as part of the elementary school consolidation, set for completion in January 2018. (Submitted photo)

ELLSWORTH -- The fate of two elementary school buildings in the Ellsworth School District has been decided.

At its Feb. 13 meeting, the Ellsworth School Board voted 6-1 to demolish Prairie View Elementary School in Hager City, sell the 9 acres on which it sits and the 40 acres of woods behind it, and sell the 8-acre Lindgren site as is.

District elementary students will be consolidated at the centrally located Ellsworth Elementary School, under construction near Hillcrest Elementary School in Ellsworth. The targeted move-in date is January 2018.

Superintendent Barry Cain and RE/MAX realtor Jared Murphy presented the board options, including keeping Lindgren as a property, plus two ideas for Prairie View.

• Option A listed Prairie View and the 9 acres separately from the 40-acre school forest.

• Option B demolishes the school, then lists the plots of land for sale separately.

Selling the Prairie View lands separately was unanimously supported by the board, but questions arose regarding the demolition of one school and not both.

Board member Jeff Stockwell is on the committee that will help facilitate the sale of the properties. Since demolition costs for both schools were built into the referendum, the district should take advantage of that, he said.

"If we have the opportunity to demolish (Prairie View) and Barry (Cain) said we are ahead of schedule and we're coming in with good numbers and not going over, that money wouldn't really be needed to offset that elementary project," Stockwell said. "I'm in favor of doing the demolition of it."

Stockwell cited taking the Prairie View property off the district's hands and not being able to keep up with the property's maintenance.

Board President Rich Kormann questioned Stockwell, asking why not demolish both?

Stockwell said he wasn't sure what someone would use the building for, citing the size of Prairie View, whereas Lindgren's lesser square footage and highway access makes it easier to keep.

Murphy said, in his opinion, demolishing Prairie View and having the 9 acres bare is more attractive for resale. He also said zoning restrictions could be tougher for Prairie View, while the highway access and proximity of Lindgren to Ellsworth and Red Wing could potentially attract buyers.

Murphy said they have had inquiries on the properties, but nothing concrete.

Board Vice President Doug Peterson was torn between demolishing just Prairie View or both.

"It's a tough one, I go back and forth," Peterson said.

Peterson added that he worries if the next owner will be responsible and be able keep up with the management of the school building.

"You never know what's going to happen after that sale," Peterson said.

The board agreed to sell the properties to someone responsible and will take care of them in the interim.

All but Peterson voted yes, passing the demolition of Prairie View, the separate sales of the 9- and 40-acre tracts and the sale of Lindgren and its 8 acres as is.

Other Business:

A petition requesting to redraw district lines for a home that is off 640th Avenue and County Road O was denied. The residents’ children go to River Falls for school and the tax dollars paid by these residents would go toward River Falls, not Ellsworth. The redrawing would allow the River Falls School District bus to pick up the children.

Cain presented on three debt refinancing options for the district that span 10, 15 and 20 years.

The board unanimously agreed on going with a 10-year option with an interest rate of 2.75 percent. Cain said the 10-year option was more “aggressive” than the rest.

A trip to Washington D.C. in 2019 for eighth graders was approved by the board. The current sixth grade will be able to go on the trip.

The boys tennis team will be in competition again after the board unanimously approved its reinstatement.

The boys tennis team was cut in 2001 but Ellsworth Athletic Director Ann Anderson said a growing number of students are interested in participating. The board said the team must have a minimum of five athletes to be able to start.

The board approved the February personnel report:

Dennis Olson was hired as a special education teacher long term substitute.

Lisa Bench was hired as a middle school Spanish teacher long term substitute.

Gary Skogsbergh was hired as a high school business education teacher long term substitute.

Tracy Mitchell was hired as a high school agriculture teacher longer term substitute.

Mari Pechacek was hired as a paraprofessional long term substitute at Lindgren.

Susan Andrews retired as a special education administrative assistant.

Barb Punches retired as a Prairie View paraprofessional.

Maureen Hopkins retired as a Prairie View kindergarten teacher.

Erin Marcks retired as a speech therapist at Lindgren.

Pete Dulak retired as a high school music teacher.

Jeanne Foy retired as a middle school paraprofessional.

Ryan Kelly resigned from being a high school custodian.

Kelly Bergner transferred from Lindgren as an administrative assistant to student services administrative assistant.

Claudine Claflin transferred from Prairie View as a paraprofessional to Lindgren as a administrative assistant.

Karen Hartung was hired as the middle school boys track coach.

Ethan Hayes was hired as the high school assistant forensics coach.

Rob Heller was hired as the assistant varsity track coach.

Matthew Lambert

Matthew Lambert joined the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal in December 2016 covering government, school board, and writing features about the community. He is a graduate of Winona State University with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism. 

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