New Level IV Special Education Building Being Constructed in Wadena
Tucked away in a corner off Route 71 in Wadena is a construction crew that’s laying the ground work for a new special education building. The new building is part of the Freshwater Education District, a special education co-op in the Wadena area, and it will serve the Level IV students.
“There are different levels of special education, and [at] Level IV, it’s been determined that they need to be completely separate from the general education population,” Jena Osberg, Freshwater’s Level IV Site Manager, said.
Currently, Freshwater’s Level IV building is a school that is no longer in use in Deer Creek, and Freshwater is excited to have their own building.
“But knowing that we have a building that was created just for their specific needs is really going to help them succeed,” Osberg said.
Once complete, the approximately 30,000 square-foot building will not only serve students in Wadena, but also in thirteen other school districts. Freshwater serves students from Menahga to Long Prairie and from Pillager to Frazee, and the classes still remain small.
“We’ve got 36 students total and we have 22 staff,” Osberg said. “So we can really provide that intensive support that they need.”
It’s a multi-million-dollar project financially headed by Sourcewell, who committed $5 million to the project.
“One of our main tasks is to help our school districts in general, and absolutely our special education districts as well, investing in great ideas and great initiatives they have,” Paul Drange, Sourcewell’s Regional Program Director, said. “Because, as I mentioned, that spills over into our quality of life in our region, and also training and retaining the best workforce we can.”
The new building will have several amenities to fit the children’s sensory needs.
“We have dimming lights, as well as horizontal windows in our classrooms that allow for natural light without the distraction of what’s going on outside,” Osberg said. “We’ve got separate work spaces for students within the classroom, so if they are overwhelmed they can work in those areas, but not be removed from the classroom, so they are still apart of what’s going on.”
The goal of Freshwater is to get the students back on track so they can one day rejoin their general education program.
“I think this is a growing need; there are a number of programs like ours around the state, but this is a becoming more of a need,” Osberg said. “So we need to focus more on these types of programs to help students learn.”
The new building is scheduled to be ready for students in 2019.