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New England school sees new front, classrooms, library

Press Photo by Dustin Monke Lori Lechler works with fourth-graders Gabe Sorenson, right, and Bobby Prince in their new classroom on the west wing of the New England Public School building on Feb. 9.1 / 2
Press Photo by Katherine Lymn The new front exterior of New England Public School was nearly finished on Feb. 27.2 / 2

NEW ENGLAND — They’ve had to deal with construction during the school year, but it’s pretty unanimous for those at New England Public School: it was worth it.

A $1.7 million expansion to the school includes bright and colorful new fifth- and sixth-grade rooms, a new ITV room, a redone library and an entirely new and secure front entrance to the building.

The renovation began the day after graduation last May, Superintendent Kelly Rasch said. Funding came from a combination of building funds and state loans.

The new front side of the building includes more secure entrances. Now, the building’s electronic doors are completely locked down after the first bell rings. Before, five or six entrances were either open and locked throughout the day.

Now, visitors hit a button for the secretary or clerk to let them inside.

“Because of our society, we felt the need to do this,” said Larry Lechler, who has been the high school Principal for more than four decades.

The expansion will be complete within weeks.

“It’s beautiful,” Lechler said. “We’re very proud of it.”

Many compared the new library to a college library — even some students, when they first saw it.

It about doubled in size, and includes new study tables and new bookshelves, Rasch said. All the books were stored in a rented classroom at St. Mary’s Catholic Church over the past year, but officials hope to get the library up and running by April 1.

Now, school staff is in the process of unpacking and dusting every book — boxes line the hallways.

“It’s quite a job,” Lechler said.

Librarian Carol Herberholz, who’s been with the school since 1994, said excitement is brewing about the new space.

Two classes have been traveling to the public library while the renovation takes place, she said.

New England Mayor Marty Opdahl — whose wife, Julie, has been the schools administrative assistant and welcoming face at the front office for several years — commended students and staff for dealing with construction during the current school year.

“They have to be commended for adapting,” he said.

The principal, counselor, business manager and secretary all have their own office spaces now. Before, they were all “in a little cubby hole,” Lechler said. The superintendent’s office has also moved so it is closer to the others.

The new front entrance, extending out from the old building, is a “massive improvement,” he said.

Opdahl said it makes for a nice view from New England’s Main Street.

“There is a lot of excitement,” he said. “When you come down Main Street and you look at the school … they made kind of a grand entrance to it.”