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'This is awesome!' Classes underway at Rothsay's new $19 million school

ROTHSAY, Minn. -- The awesomeness is underway. Classes started Monday at Rothsay's $19 million pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade school.

The new Rothsay (Minn.) Public School is seen next to a field Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

ROTHSAY, Minn. - The awesomeness is underway.

Classes started Monday at Rothsay's $19 million pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade school.

Even with a few scheduling kinks to work out, Principal Staci Allmaras said Wednesday that the new two-story building has fostered a new energy among students and staff.

"It's fun to see the excitement this year," she said.

"The most often heard phrase is, 'This is awesome!' I've heard it from students, faculty and parents," Allmaras said.


The new school is near Interstate 94 at 2040 County Road 52.

The building has 91,000 square feet, nearly double the old school's 47,000 square feet, which included a patchwork of additions made over the decades to the original 1903 structure.

The space will come in handy with growing enrollment, Superintendent Warren Schmidt said.

Rothsay ended school in the spring with 267 students. This fall's enrollment now stands at 288.

Schmidt expects the growth to continue.

Something that's also been appreciated with the pre-Labor Day start of school: air conditioning.

The old school on Second Street in the city's downtown had no air conditioning, Almaras said.

"Those third-floor teachers, days like this week, got miserably warm," she said.


Teachers also said they were happy in the new building.

"I'm so excited to be going from a small space to a big, full classroom," math teacher Nancy Strobel said in an interview with the Fergus Falls Daily Journal. "It's going to be a lot easier for students to have more access and a better learning experience this way."

"We now get a lot of luxuries and little things that will make for less headaches," fourth-grade teacher Aaron Schindler told the Journal. "There's so much more space and possibilities."

Schmidt said the opening has been "fantastic."

The building, which has a capacity of 350 to 400 students, was expected to cost nearly $20 million, but it came in under budget, so the $19.4 million bond issue paid for all of the costs.

"There's a real sense of pride developing among the kids and the community now," Schmidt said. "They're very proud of the building."

The new facility was approved in a bond referendum in May 2013. Construction began in early 2014.

In June, the School Board agreed to tear down much of the old school, with the exception of the gym, band room, locker rooms, science room and stage. An agreement is being worked out to give what remains standing to the city for offices and community use, Schmidt said.


In return, the district would get to use the facility for tournaments and other events, he said.

The district also closed the Storefront, which had been a hardware and grocery store run by students, Schmidt said. The building and lot on Main Street are for sale, he said.

Preschool through fourth-grade classes are on the first floor of the new school. Fifth- and sixth-graders are grouped together on one wing of the second floor, while seventh- through 12th-graders use the rest of that level.

Almaras said a child-care program for 3- to 5-year-olds will be offered for a fee starting Sept. 21.

A dedication ceremony is expected to be held during Homecoming Week, she said.

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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