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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.

West Learning Center, formerly known as West Elementary, as seen on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, currently houses a number of District 518 programs, most of which will move to the Community Education building now under construction when it is complete.
West Learning Center, formerly known as West Elementary, as seen on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, currently houses a number of District 518 programs, most of which will move to the Community Education building now under construction when it is complete.
Kari Lucin / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — The District 518 Board of Education voted 6-0 Tuesday to demolish West Learning Center, formerly known as West Elementary.

MORE DISTRICT 518 NEWS
“And we are not asking the state to spend the budget surplus on us. What we are asking the state to do is to make bold strategic investments in us so that we can help the state grow with surplus even more."
“... there’s no question that if we can chip away at this (child care) issue, it will help ease the burden of the workforce shortage.”
This is the final of six installments featuring new teachers in Worthington District 518.

“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.

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“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.

The lines of wall tile in this restroom at West Learning Center show how much the ground has settled, as does the crack in the floor tiling, shown on July 21, 2022.
The lines of wall tile in this restroom at West Learning Center show how much the ground has settled, as does the crack in the floor tiling, shown on July 21, 2022.
Kari Lucin / The Globe

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.

Door frames are pulling away from the wall due to West Learning Center's settling, as shown on July 21, 2022.
Door frames are pulling away from the wall due to West Learning Center's settling, as shown on July 21, 2022.
Kari Lucin / The Globe

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.

According to the IGS facility assessment, West Learning Center's floor tile and its associated adhesives are presumed to contain asbestos based on the age of the materials, but testing would be required to confirm its presence. If it is present, it would need to be abated in order to serve as a child care facility.
According to the IGS facility assessment, West Learning Center's floor tile and its associated adhesives are presumed to contain asbestos based on the age of the materials, but testing would be required to confirm its presence. If it is present, it would need to be abated in order to serve as a child care facility.
Kari Lucin / The Globe

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:

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MORE EDUCATION NEWS
“The thought is that by bringing those college students back to the local area, they’ll likely choose to work here and then build their families here as well.”
The public is invited to the Worthington Fire Department's annual pancake feed from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday at the Worthington Fire Hall.
"We are excited to have this time with families, as we know parent engagement in education is key to student success," said Principal Cathy Mrla.

  • 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 on a 5-1 vote a student data privacy policy restricting the school’s monitoring of students’ online activity, regardless of whether the devices used are school-owned or not. Several board members expressed their disapproval of the policy, which new state law required them to pass.
  • 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.
West Learning Center, formerly known as West Elementary, as seen on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, currently houses a number of District 518 programs, most of which will move to the Community Education building now under construction when it is complete.
West Learning Center, formerly known as West Elementary, as seen on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, currently houses a number of District 518 programs, most of which will move to the Community Education building now under construction when it is complete.
Kari Lucin / The Globe

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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