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New school building nearly ready for students

Last week playground equipment was installed at the new Intermediate School District 917 school in Rosemount. This week staff will unpack boxes and get ready for students who start classes Sept. 2.

Named the Alliance Education Center, the building will house more than 90 students from the eight school districts ISD 917 serves. In addition to students the building will have office space for its itinerant staff, who travel to schools the district serves.

"It's a more pleasant and efficient building than the old one," said ISD 917 superintendent John Christiansen.

ISD 917 provides educational opportunities to students with special needs from the Burnsville, Farmington, Hastings, Inver Grove Heights, Lakeville, Randolph, Rosemount, South St. Paul and West St. Paul school districts according to the district's web site.

The new 40,000 sq.ft. building was built along Biscayne Avenue on the former Dakota County public works site. The school borders Beech Street to the south and the Union Pacific rail line tracks to the north.

"It's nearly at the geographic center of the eight school districts we serve," said Christiansen of the location. He added that Rosemount was chosen for the new building because of that reason.

When designing the building, Christiansen said the architect Mark Lentz and Associates added elements with the school's unique student body in mind.

Because class sizes are smaller at the school Christiansen said classrooms are smaller. All the classrooms have their own American Disability Act accessible bathroom. And halls and doorways were made to accommodate equipment.

"It flows very well," Christiansen said of the building.

In addition the school has areas that were developed to help students thrive academically, including activity rooms and a life skills room where students will learn to perform everyday tasks such as cooking and laundry.

During construction of the building Christiansen said environmentally friendly materials were used when possible.

"We tried to really look at things," said Christiansen.

The $7.5 million dollar project turned out well, Christiansen said. He said teachers and staff he has talked to have been excited about the new building.

"They are certainly pleased to be in a new facility," said Christiansen.

The building replaces the district's Thompson Heights building. He said the district didn't want to put any more money into the building and that it has been looking for a new site for several years.

Christiansen said the Dakota County Community Development Agency will purchase the former building.

"The expense to remodel would have approached new building costs," said Christiansen about the decision to build new.

To celebrate the new school a grand opening will be held Sept. 17. Christiansen said more details will come soon. For more information on ISD 917 visit