TOWER—The Vermilion Country charter school should have a renovated facility open for summer programming by June or July. Advertisements for bids on the estimated $340,000 in renovations to the former Powerain building went out this week, with a bid opening set for Feb. 26, and bid awards slated for early March.
The renovations, which are being undertaken by the Tower Economic Development Authority and the city of Tower, will include a new heating system, new bathrooms, a full kitchen, media center, music and art rooms, recreation center, as well as workstations for up to 85 students. Contractors will complete most of the work, although volunteers are expected to handle the finishing touches in many cases.
“It’s going to be a big job, but we’re excited to finally be moving forward after more than three years of planning and preparation,” said Vermilion Country Board Chair Jodi Summit.
The board will be aided in its efforts by school director and start-up coordinator Ken Alexander, who will begin his full-time duties on Feb. 1. Alexander will be continuing the work he began last year to get all of the new school’s systems up and running. Unlike last year, when start-up funds were unavailable, Vermilion Country now has a $125,000 planning grant, which will help fund most start-up efforts over the next seven months. The school also now qualifies for additional implementation funds, which will become available later this year, which will fund technology needs, supplies, and equipment.
“Having a community-based high school once again in Tower and Soudan is a big deal,” said Summit. “This is critical community development and economic development all rolled into one.”
Financing for the school renovations will be recovered through the state lease aid that the school will receive beginning this summer. The lease aid will cover repayment costs and likely provide a substantial cash flow for TEDA, something the organization has lacked since its inception.
With the renovations now expected to get underway next month, the school should be completed in time for summer programs in July. Summit said the school board is currently developing plans and seeking funding for a variety of interesting summer activities and programs for middle and senior high students.