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Special Education is Moving Out

February 9, 2021

School Districts are Building Separate Facilities for Special Ed

The need for special education continues to rise in the state of Minnesota. Nor-Son Construction is currently building its fourth special education project in Walker, MN. A new Level 4 Special Education facility for the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley School District is scheduled to open Fall 2021.

Architectural Rendering by BHH Partners

A Level (or setting) 4 facility is for students who receive education programs in public separate day school facilities. These special education facilities have unique features compared to a typical school. Construction materials tend to be simple and durable. Warm, soft paint colors are used to provide a more calming atmosphere for the students, many of which have special needs such as ADHD or autism.

Small calming rooms called “reflection rooms” have special lighting to help soothe emotions to provide a safe and calming place for alone time if needed.

Added security features include delayed egress locks on security doors. The 15-second delay before opening prevents children from leaving without teacher’s awareness. At Mid State Learning Center in Little Falls, the district was able to extend the delay to 30-seconds by getting approval from local officials. The delayed egress locks meet all fire safety codes.

Mid State Learning Center received approval to extend delayed egress locks to 30 seconds.

The new Level 4 special education building for the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley School district is located on the south end of Walker on the former Ah-Gwah-Ching (which means outdoors in Ojibwe) campus.

The 9.4-acre site originally held an old medical campus that contained approximately 30 buildings. Built in the early 1900’s as a state isolation hospital to house tuberculous patients, the campus was eventually transformed into a nursing home in 1962. The nursing home closed in 2000 and all the buildings were demolished several years later.

There was concern early on as to whether the team would find any hazardous materials from the original medial campus. Luckily, aside from an old porcelain toilet and minor steel fragments, the site was clean and safe for construction.

Walker-Hackensack-Akeley School District, as well as Mid-State Learning Center and Freshwater School District in Wadena, all utilized Sourcewell cooperative purchasing process to select Nor-Son Construction as their General Contractor. Sourcewell is a self-sustaining government organization who partners with government agencies, educators, and nonprofit entities to empower community success. Nor-Son is an approved General Contractor of Sourcewell for the state of Minnesota.

Educators are also teaming with management groups to act as their owner’s representative. ORB Management based in Alexandria, MN has fulfilled this role at Freshwater, Mid-State Learning Center, and now Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Level 4 School, guiding the project from design inception through completion. This collaborative team approach allows school administrators to focus on daily operations of the school and avoid added Construction Administration to their workload. The entire team works to manage the project in the school’s best interest.

Additional Special Education projects completed by Nor-Son Construction: