On Tuesday, Aug. 27, the new Freshwater Education facility opened its doors after 10 long years of planning.

The public was invited to an open house to tour the new building and everything it has to offer. People walked the halls, peering into classrooms and computer labs before making their way to the gymnasium for some celebratory cake.

The new building sets on the outskirts of Wadena. The structure rises up from behind an earthen berm along Hwy 71. It's a place nestled amongst trees and natural beauty of Wadena, devoid of distractions. All of this was planned, according to Freshwater staff. Everything about the new facility puts the students’ needs first. The somewhat isolated location was chosen purposefully so students could focus on learning and not the many distractions that can find a way into a traditional classroom.

The interior of the building was designed to be calming.
Michael Denny/Wadena Pioneer Journal
The interior of the building was designed to be calming. Michael Denny/Wadena Pioneer Journal

ORB Management, Nor-Son Construction, and BHH Partners worked closely with staff to devise a tailored teaching space. The new school has several connecting classrooms that allow for a more efficient flow of students and staff. Lockers have also been moved into the classroom for better monitoring. The interior is calming and peaceful, with an emphasis on natural light so windows are very prominent. Most importantly, the space serves as a modular learning environment that suits each student individually. Many of the classrooms are laid out so students can more easily work in a group or on their own.

Staff members at Sourcewell (formally National Joint Powers Alliance) were treated to a private tour before the doors opened to the public. Sourcewell is an organization dedicated to improving the quality of education throughout the region. In October 2016, initial talks about a new special education facility began. Sourcewell provided Freshwater Education with a $5 million grant and an additional $1 million was added to reserve funds. The staff moved swiftly from room to room observing every aspect of the building. What started as a simple meeting, evolved into a multi-million dollar school unlike any other in the area.

Sourcewell staff were given a private tour prior to the open house. Sourcewell secured a $5 million dollar grant for the construction of the school.
Michael Denny/Wadena Pioneer Journal
Sourcewell staff were given a private tour prior to the open house. Sourcewell secured a $5 million dollar grant for the construction of the school. Michael Denny/Wadena Pioneer Journal

Jena Osberg, level IV program facilitator spent the evening leading tours through the building. She showed off new classrooms, the playground, and various other education amenities.

Jena Osberg, level IV program facilitator, brought people through the new school on tours.
Michael Denny/Wadena Pioneer Journal
Jena Osberg, level IV program facilitator, brought people through the new school on tours. Michael Denny/Wadena Pioneer Journal

“It was specifically designed for our students and what they need,” said Osberg after finishing her tour. For her, the new facility is a great place for kids that need just a little bit more help. She explained that the building was designed with a calming atmosphere in mind, a place that could ease the tension associated with a busy day of learning. Sensory concerns and individualized learning spaces were very important to educators during the planning process. According to Osberg, the new school is an improvement in every way over the old building. She stated that it was a fine place to teach, but was showing its age.

Superintendent Jerry Nesland accompanied the small crowd during the tour. Moments later he was called away to cut the ceremonial ribbon, officially opening the school. Spectators crowded the hall as photos snapped and flashed. With an overgrown pair of scissors, he sliced through the ribbon. With that snip of the ribbon, Freshwater Education officially transitioned. “it's overwhelming,” Nesland said. For him, the building represents 10 years of hard work and a completed vision devoted to learning.

Superintendent Jerry Nesland was pivotal in getting the new building constructed. He praised it as being a very efficient space.
Michael Denny/Wadena Pioneer Journal
Superintendent Jerry Nesland was pivotal in getting the new building constructed. He praised it as being a very efficient space. Michael Denny/Wadena Pioneer Journal

He praised the new space as being very efficient. The building will house over 100 staff members. Many of these employees are on the road helping in different districts. The building is designed to give everyone a place to work, even if its only for a few hours a week. Nesland explained that having an opulent school isn't as important as having an efficient one. Large offices with huge desks are unnecessary. Every workspace is tailored, similar to the student spaces.

The new Freshwater school is 32,000 square-feet and serves grades 2-12. It comes equipped with an activities center, lunch room, offices, and work room. Currently, it serves 13 school districts throughout central Minnesota. Freshwater Education can be found at 2222 Industrial Drive in Wadena. For more information, call 218-631-3505.