Students turn shovels for new school bldg.

Published 9:28 am Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Austin third- and fourth-graders are the first to break ground at the new fifth- and sixth-grade intermediate school Monday. -- Trey Mewes/Albert Lea Tribune

AUSTIN — A new school began with a couple shovelfuls of dirt Monday as Austin Public Schools officials celebrated the groundbreaking of the new fifth- and sixth-grade intermediate building, which will be constructed east of Ellis Middle School.

“It’s a great day to be a Packer,” said Austin Superintendent David Krenz.

Krenz said the new school was a culmination of more than two years’ worth of work from the community, school staff and administrators after a demographic report found Austin’s student population would increase by as much as 800 to 1,000 students by 2019.

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“The really great thing about it is it’s not just about adding needed space,” said Jeff Kritzer, Austin Public Schools Board chairman. “It’s about improving education in Austin, which is really what this school is going to do. It’s what everybody in the district is always striving toward.”

With a new building with a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics focus, the school will be designed to maximize student learning environments while exposing students to technological applications to real-world problems.

“We will be able to offer, we believe, 21st century education in the community,” he said.

Much work needs to be done before the new school can open in fall 2013. A naming contest is under way.

Mark Stotts, the district’s finance and operations director, told the Austin Public School board Monday night the Austin City Council approved the district plan to build tennis courts on property next to Neveln last week. Council members will discuss vacating Sixth Avenue within school property on May 21. Once the council approves the measure, the district will begin site construction by tearing up the vacated street. Construction on the building won’t take place until next month, according to Stotts.

Both the new school project and an expansion for Woodson Kindergarten Center are going according to schedule, district officials said.

“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Woodson Principal Jean McDermott. McDermott will become the new school principal this summer, bringing together a staff for a new school and helping to plan building details, among other things.