The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 8, 2009

School groundbreaking

Mankato looks forward to state-of-the-art building

By Robb Murray

MANKATO — Officials of all kinds — school, city, county, probably others — were on hand for the groundbreaking of what will be the first new elementary school in Mankato in 50 years.

It doesn’t have a name yet, but when it does, the new school promises to be a state-of-the-art, LEED-certified facility. (LEED refers to a building’s status as being “green,” or environmentally friendly and energy efficient.)

“It will be a school I believe will be an asset to our community,” Mankato Area Public Schools Supt. Ed Waltman said.

It was a groundbreaking in its most symbolic form. School Board members and other officials gripped gold-painted shovels and pierced the sandy ground while everyone with a point-and-shoot camera captured the moment.

It’s a blank field now, but by September 2010, it will be the shining jewel of the Mankato school system.

Geothermal heating system, computers available to each classroom, voice-integrated Smart Board system, 24 classrooms grouped in quads, a kitchen that can be used during after-school hours, and plenty of Kasota stone used in construction.

And there are ball fields, lots of them, both Little League size and regular.

As for that name, the field has been narrowed to 11: Adams, Anthony (for Susan B. Anthony), Eisenhower, Hanna (for Sara Jane Hanna, the first school teacher in Mankato), Humphrey, Lincoln, Parks (for Rosa Parks), Prairie Ridge, Mondale, Stevens (for Sarah Stevens, the first female superintendent in Blue Earth County), and Two Rivers.

The public is asked to visit the school district’s Web site at mail.isd77.k12.mn.us/SchoolName and have a say on the 11 choices.

Speakers at the groundbreaking emphasized the cooperative nature of the school planning process. The school district and city worked together on every phase, officials said.

The district will maintain the building, and the city will help in the maintenance of the athletic fields. Roosevelt Principal Rick Lund will serve as the new school’s principal.

Bryan Paulsen, the Mankato architect who designed the new school, said several trends were at work in the building’s design.

“One of the trends sweeping the nation is the importance of LEED certification,” he told those gathered. He said it’s important to “implant in young minds the importance of sustainability.”

Another trend, Paulsen said, is the idea of having community schools. There will be space built into the new school that will be so-called “community space.” This space will be accessible to the public after the school closes for the day.

As for the building’s technology, Paulsen said, “We hope the faculty can keep up with the kids.”

And while Waltman wasn’t the focus of the day, several people commented on his impact on the district, and how much he’ll be missed when he retires in June.

Mankato City Council Member Mark Frost said he’s known Waltman for more than 20 years, and that Waltman’s passion for kids and education will be missed.

“The vision of this man can not be overstated,” he said. “You can’t believe how lucky we are to have assets like (Waltman and his wife, Maureen) in this community.”

Waltman, of course, shrugs off suggestions that he deserves credit for anything. Instead, he credits voters for doing things such as approving the $23 million to pay for this new school.

“This community understands the importance of education,” he said.