NISSWA-With a test well set to be dug Thursday morning, the renovations at Nisswa Elementary School are officially underway.
Students, staff, district officials and community members crowded into the school's gym to celebrate the momentous occasion with speeches and songs during a groundbreaking ceremony May 23.
"It is quite surreal," Nisswa Principal Molly Raske said about finally seeing the project begin. "As I prepared for today, a quote from Coretta Scott King came to mind. She said, 'The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.' I can stand in front of you today because of you. You decided to invest in our children."
Dedication to students and a strong sense of community seemed to be the overarching theme of the day's events, as teacher Holly Olson noted how fortunate the school is to live in a community where local businesses and organizations are always willing to help out.
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Photos of the Nisswa school groundbreaking celebration, KLICK! Gallery - https://bit.ly/2X2Tzi2.
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"We feel our community is second to none when it comes to support for Nisswa School," Olson said, mentioning specifically yearly demonstrations by the fire department, the businesses who give out candy during the annual Halloween parade and Rafferty's coupons donated for teachers to use to incentivize learning.
"But most importantly, our community supporting Brainerd Public Schools when we needed them most," she said, referring to the district's $205 million bond referendum passed last spring to fund updates and additions to several school facilities. "For that, we are eternally grateful."
The groundbreaking ceremony, Nisswa Chamber of Commerce Director Holly Holm said, is itself proof of the community's dedication of its vibrant future.
"This ceremony marks an important moment in the rewriting of history of Nisswa Elementary School. I'm confident that the school will make the most of this opportunity and continue to thrive," Holm said. "I would like the students to know that they have a loving and caring community that is eager to support them all because they deserve the best."
And according to Nisswa Mayor Fred Heidmann, the students deserve the best because they are the future.
"When I look out into all the faces out here, I see future business people. I see doctors. I see engineers. I see teachers. I see a whole array of people who are going to be creating our future and will be carrying on long after I'm gone," Heidmann said. "It is so important that we even recognize that fact because it is the reason that we're looking to expand the school."
Those expansions, valued at about $12 million, include a full-sized gymnasium, a two-story classroom addition, remodeling on the southern end of the building, an enlarged cafeteria and remodeled kitchen and office area. There will also be extra space for more classrooms to be added in the future.
The fully renovated school is expected to open for the 2020-21 school year.
But none of that could have happened, Superintendent Laine Larson explained, without valuable partnerships among the school district and parents, community members, teachers and other volunteers.
"You can never really do anything very well if you think you're going to do it alone," Larson said. "Instead what you need to do is work together as partners, and it took a real partnership focused on education to make this referendum pass."
And when looking at the word "Nisswa" in the future, Larson said she hopes people remember the day of groundbreaking and how the word represents their educational investments. Nisswa, she said, stands for:
N-Numbers and nursery school through grade four.
I-Innovation and inquiry in learning.
S-Success for all students.
S-Safe and secure buildings.
W-Wonderful world of writing and words.
A-Arts, activities, academics, athletics and achievement for all.
School board chair Sue Kern thanked voters for furthering this mission by generously agreeing to spend their hard-earned tax dollars on the school district, when they easily could have gone elsewhere.
"We're so happy the community values the importance of educating the next generation," Kern said.
Other speakers Thursday included fourth grader Olivia Johnson, ICS Consulting Principal Owner Dave Bergeron and Nisswa parent-teacher organization Co-President Joleen Quisberg.
Larson ended the ceremony by thanking one last group without whom none of the upcoming work could have been possible-the students.
"Thank you, boys and girls, for coming to school every day and for being our kids," she said. "It's a pleasure to be here."
School board members, speakers, administrators, contractors and volunteers then put on vests and hard hats, grabbed shovels and ceremoniously overturning the first dirt-piled on a tarp in the gym-to symbolize a new beginning for Nisswa Elementary School.
For more photos of the Nisswa school groundbreaking celebration, go to https://bit.ly/2X2Tzi2.