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Bell rings for the last time at three area schools

By Laura Gossman

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

WEST CONCORD — When the final bell rings signifying the end of the school year, three southeastern Minnesota schools will be closing their doors for good.

Construction workers are in the process of constructing a new addition to the Triton Public School building in Dodge Center, which will replace the middle school in West Concord. Triton middle school students will spend their last day of school in the building today.

Superintendent Robert Kelly said the school held a fun day last week and that many people were able to see the school on one of its final days during the eighth grade graduation that was held there Wednesday.

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He’s hoping construction on the new addition will be done in time for the start of the next school year.

"They’ve really been hitting it hard this spring," Kelly said.

Citing energy and transportation costs and health concerns, the Triton school board voted to close the building, which was built in 1957.

West Concord Mayor Jeff McCool was disappointed in that decision and fears it will be harder for the small town to attract young families.

"I personally feel it’s a good building, so it’s unfortunate it’s closing," McCool said.

Kelly said there’s no plans for the building, but said it will likely be used for storage for now.

McCool thought it would be a good home for the charter school he is helping organize, but also said it might be a good place for an industrial business or assisted living facility.

K-M Intermediate School closing

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The Kasson-Mantorville Intermediate School in Mantorville will also be closing, meaning students will also be moving to a new middle school in Kasson next year.

Today is the last day of school for K-M students, and the Mantorville school will be listed for sale beginning June 5.

Superintendent Peter Grant said the fifth and sixth grade students have been housed in the Mantorville school, and that those students will move to the new school along with 7th and 8th grade students who have been housed at the high school in Kasson.

"We’re looking for a buyer," Grant said.

Chatfield elementary done

The last day of school for Chatfield elementary students was Wednesday, and they’ll also have a new school to learn and play in come fall.

Superintendent Don Hainlen said construction of the new school has gone well and that the district has already begun moving student desks to the new site.

"It’s a new beginning for our students and we’re looking ahead," Hainlen said. "As part of the process of moving, we gave students tours of the new building so they can see where they will have their classes next year. That was really exciting for them."

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Both the district and the city are studying ways to use the old building.

Hainlen said they’d like to renovate Potter Auditorium, but they’re still looking for ideas for the 1954 and 1918 sections of the school.

They’d like the auditorium to be used to expand the city’s fine arts offering, Hainlen said.

"We want a place for local talent and visiting talent, and there’s potential for the auditorium to be a place for business conferences," Hainlen said. "There’s a unique niche I think we could fill," Hainlen said.

He mentioned that Chatfield students could use the building for drama and speech activities as well.

The auditorium is one of the largest in the area and could possibly seat as many at 750 people once it’s made handicap accessible.

Community leaders are seeking out stimulus fund dollars and Legacy funds to renovate the auditorium.

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