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ABOVE: The Fairmont Area School District is working on several projects, including the installation of a new elementary school playground. Some of the old equipment is visible in the foreground while new parts have already been installed.

FAIRMONT — This summer, schools in the Fairmont area will work on a series of infrastructure projects funded with assistance from the state’s Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund. The ESSER fund was created to distribute federal Covid-19 aid. The district plans to use a portion of these funds to replace the playground at Fairmont Elementary School, while Fairmont High School is expected to receive new furniture for common areas as well as a science classroom and a renovated fitness and weights room. In addition to replacing or renovating old school facilities, these projects aim to create more efficient learning spaces that can more easily implement physical distancing when necessary.

One of the advantages of infrastructure projects is that their benefits can be maintained at lower cost compared to other options.

Superintendent Andy Traetow said: “If you invest these one-time funds in programs and staff, we also need to develop a plan to sustain those programs and staff beyond the existence of these funds. With these types of projects, we use one-time funds for projects that will last beyond the foreseeable future, allowing us to focus on other spaces.

ESSER funds are intended to enable districts to address the Covid-19 pandemic and state-identified education priorities. ESSER’s most recent funding round is intended to help address the less acute impacts of the pandemic, and with this broader scope comes a more detailed allocation process. After the district’s proposals were submitted, it completed a feedback process with the state before receiving approval. The district is then required to fund and complete each project before relief funds are distributed.

The replacement playground is nearing completion due to the availability of materials and workers needed ahead of other projects. The old playground predates the current elementary school building and was moved from Budd School.

According to Tyler Garrison, district construction and grounds manager, before the replacement process began, the rubber coating protecting its metal frame members was beginning to deteriorate and severe metal corrosion was revealed during the replacement process. disassembly. While the district originally planned to either refurbish the equipment and relocate it elsewhere or donate it to a non-profit organization, neither option proved viable given its condition.

Replacement equipment is intended to be more accessible to more students and is arranged to allow the segments to be used separately or combined in an obstacle course. In addition to being used during recess, it can also be more easily incorporated into physical education.

Renovations to the high school’s fitness and weight room include new floors, paint, and equipment, some of which dates back to the buildings’ completion. When completed, the facility will provide greater capacity and flexibility while providing a better resource for student-athletes and physical education. The current Earth Science classroom is also getting paint, flooring, cabinets and classroom furniture that will allow for greater versatility.

Replacement furniture for the school’s common areas has also been ordered; the vast majority of the current furniture has not been replaced since the school opened. The new furnishings will feature school badges and offer a wider range of seating arrangements such as traditional cafeteria tables as well as cubicles, high tables and table sets.

Currently, ESSER funds will continue to be distributed until September 2024 and in the future, the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to influence school infrastructure. Part of the Minnesota Department of Education’s pandemic response is to meet needs that have been identified during the pandemic. In addition to the playground and the weight room promoting more physical activity, these four projects make it possible to place students in small groups and to space them further apart to reduce the risk of spread. If these projects are part of the pandemic response, their benefits will extend strictly beyond that.

“At this point, it looks like some (infrastructure investments) are meeting what (the metrics) were in the past, but it also allows us more flexibility to move forward if we see a need or if our needs change, said Traetow.

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