School expands fine arts space
RIDGEWAY — The days of holding band lessons inside a closet will soon be over at a rural Winona County charter school thanks to a new fine arts and preschool wing under construction.
The 3,000-square-foot addition should be ready to use by the end of September at Ridgeway Community School; it will provide a preschool classroom, a stage that will double as an instrument practice room and a shared art and music classroom.
"The fact that we will actually have this space, when I walk in there, I need to pinch myself," said school coordinator Jodi Dansingburg. "I think it will be great for everyone involved to have more space."
A $300,000 donation from the Don and Roxanne Weber family will fund most of the addition. Officials at the K-5 school said they will work through the end of October to raise the rest, about $100,000. Dansingburg said the school will borrow money — charter schools cannot raise money through tax levies — if the goal isn’t met.
Dansingburg said the addition has become crucial as the school’s enrollment continues to swell. Enrollment jumped from 60 in 2001 to 128 this year.
The lack of space meant preschool classes were taught in a small corner of the library. The music and art teachers used whatever classroom space they could find and stored their supplies in a closet — the same closet where they held individual band lessons.
Teachers will have to start the school year in those cramped quarters, but officials hope the new space will be usable by the end of September. Staff members will add final touches like area rugs and updated cabinets as money is raised.
"We are very excited to be able to offer needed educational space to our families and our community," said Jennifer Krings, a Ridgeway Community School board member.
Construction on the addition began in June, with volunteers working long hours to paint and complete other tasks. Dansingburg said crews recently installed doors and windows and will be installing electrical, heating and plumbing components in the coming weeks.
"When you really see it physically there, it’s a lot different than just seeing plans for it," Dansingburg said.
School officials started visualizing the fine arts and preschool wing in 2007 during construction of a library and first-grade classroom.
Dansingburg said school officials worked closely with the Webers, who also supported the school during its first addition in 2007.
The Webers live in La Crosse, Wis., and have a farm near Ridgeway. Though their children never attended the school, Don Weber said he and his wife were happy to help once they learned more about Ridgeway and got to know the teachers and students.
"Even with the limited resources they had, they took these young students and got them to achieve," Don Weber said. "To give them the opportunity to be able to have more resources, to broaden their minds and their world, is a great thing. It really was an easy decision."
School officials have raised about 25 percent of the $100,000 they need to finish paying for the project. Dansingburg said they will take inventory at the end of October to see how much they might need to borrow.
The next fundraising event is a Belgian waffle breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon Oct. 9 at the school. Dansingburg said the event will give parents and community members a chance to see the new addition.
To learn more about the project or how to donate, go online to www.ridgewayschool.org or call the school at (507) 454-9566.