West Learning Center to be demolished, school board decides
Multiple groups had expressed interest in repurposing the building, including one wanting to use it as a community and art center and one that hoped to turn it into a child care facility.
WORTHINGTON — The District 518 Board of Education voted 6-0 Tuesday to demolish West Learning Center, formerly known as West Elementary.
“I was really against demolishing the West building, but after much consideration it’s probably best for the school district to demolish the building,” said board member Tom Prins.
Multiple groups had expressed interest in repurposing the building, including one wanting to use it as a community and art center and one that hoped to turn it into a child care facility. Abundant Life church had sent the school board a 35-page proposal for the structure as well.
“I have a hard time switching gears right now… we accepted the outcome of that election,” said school board member Brad Shaffer. “We sold the bonds in order to build an Intermediate School and I don’t see how we can now switch gears on people who felt that was an important part of the ballot.”
School board member Joel Lorenz cited concerns with West’s condition, pointing out that its roof is in terrible shape and the asbestos removal would be a huge cost to anyone trying to do anything with it.
“It’s just not fit for use. It’s just in poor shape,” Lorenz said. “The cost would be very prohibitive” to fix it and keep it up.
He presented the motion that the district vacate the building after Community Education moves to its new facility near the Learning Center, then advertise for bids on West’s demolition.
Chairwoman Lori Dudley recalled talk about demolishing West back when Prairie Elementary was built, and said there would be options for what to do with the land once the building was gone.
School board member Stephen Schnieder said while he liked the idea of trying to salvage portions of West, it was in poor condition, and many ideas for rehabilitating the building relied on grants, which can be tough to get. He also expressed concern that someone would take the building, be unable to do anything with it or pay taxes on it and then forfeit it to Nobles County — which would then still need to demolish it.
“I think the best option for us… is to remove this building and move on,” Schnieder said.
School board member Adam Blume asked if the district could still take the playground equipment, and Superintendent John Landgaard answered “Probably,” before the vote was taken.
Board member Mike Harberts was not present.
In other news Tuesday, the board:
- Authorized Landgaard to submit a new application to the Minnesota Department of Education to create an online program, following the termination of its VIBE program. This time the school will submit two applications, one for 7-12 and another for K-6.
- Approved a salary and benefits package increase for paraprofessionals following negotiations with the Worthington Paraprofessional Association. The first year, they will receive an 8.66% increase, with a 5.74% increase for the second year.
- Approved resignations, hirings, terminations and employment changes, including those related to the termination of the district’s VIBE program.
- Approved school lunch prices for the 2022-2023 school year. For students in kindergarten through fifth grade, lunch will cost $2.35, and older children will pay $2.50. Adult lunches will be $5 each. The board also voted that breakfasts will be cost-free this year.
- Received an update that District 518 is still hiring, and in particular, is seeking people to fill 12 licensed positions and 16 non-licensed positions. Enrollment is at 3,323 students.
- Approved a new job points rating system for District 518, similar to the state’s job rating system.
- Accepted a donation from Schwartz Farms for the class of 2023.
- Approved an employee’s request for sick leave due to pregnancy and child care leave without pay.
- Approved a request for tax abatement through the Nobles Home Initiative for Marcos Ramos.
- Approved a student teacher agreement with the University of South Dakota.
- Approved hiring an additional volleyball coach for students in grades 9-12.
- Approved an out-of-town travel request for Landgaard to attend a national conference.