Tentative lease for Schoolcraft move to Deer Lake withdrawn
BEMIDJI -- Schoolcraft Learning Community is set to stay at the Concordia Language Villages. School board members were prepared to vote Thursday on a lease that would have moved the K-8 charter into the former Deer Lake Elementary building north ...
BEMIDJI -- Schoolcraft Learning Community is set to stay at the Concordia Language Villages.
School board members were prepared to vote Thursday on a lease that would have moved the K-8 charter into the former Deer Lake Elementary building north of Bemidji, but their plan was rendered moot after they learned the building’s tentative owners had withdrawn the agreement on Wednesday.
“It feels a little bit like turning away from a summit on a climb,” Board Chair Mark Morrissey said.
Student and parent surveys indicated broad support for the move despite worries about the commute; the mothballed building condition and amenities; and retaining Schoolcraft’s outdoorsy “feel,” according to documents supplied at a special board meeting Monday.
“I have a lot of hesitations, but I think the opportunity this building provides is too rare to pass up,” one parent wrote.
Faculty and staff were split. Great Western Properties, which inked a soon-to-expire purchase agreement for Deer Lake and would have leased it to Schoolcraft, was reluctant to pony up for outbuildings and other hoped-for renovations there. The charter school, then, would be obliged to pay for those additions, which would presumably take years to build as administrators there saved up money and fundraised. Until the changes were made, staff worried the new building would be cramped and noisy.
“Even though CLV isn’t a long-term solution and it’s hard to imagine a better opportunity presenting itself, we would be giving up a good thing for hope of a better thing and a lot of students would miss out while we waited for the new thing to be a better thing,” one staffer, who opposed the move, wrote in an early November survey.
Schoolcraft has leased its space from Concordia Language Villages since it was founded in 2000. School staff pack up and move their offices and classrooms every spring to make way for summer camps and then return every fall before school starts. The twice-annual moves cost the school about $10,000 annually, but wouldn’t be necessary in a more permanent home at Deer Lake.
“SLC will never have full control of our own future if we don’t take the leap sometime,” wrote a pro-move staff member. “Moving 2x/year is not sustainable.”
Deer Lake is a former Bemidji Area Schools elementary. That school district’s board voted to close the school in the early 2000s and district staff used the building for storage until last year, when the district agreed to sell the school to 3Suns Research, a research and development company that planned to start an engineering school there. The company had to put those plans on hold after the U.S. Department of Education stopped recognizing the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, which would have accredited 3Suns’ school.
Another Bemidji charter, TrekNorth Junior & Senior High School, considered the site for a planned K-5 expansion, but staff there backed away late this summer amid concerns about the bond they planned to issue for the project and Deer Lake’s relative distance from their existing 6-12 school on Paul Bunyan Drive.
Morrissey and Eickman said they’re happy with the language villages and that their negotiations with Great Western were amicable. Administrators and board members plan to work on a new lease with Concordia.
“The building's still there,” said Jason Rylander, a board member and parent, of the Deer Lake site. “Maybe a new opportunity presents itself. Maybe a better opportunity presents itself for the same building.”