RIVER FALLS – River Falls School District and city officials, Renaissance Academy students, community members and employees from Derrick Building Solutions celebrated a chilly groundbreaking for the new Renaissance Charter Academy on Thursday, Nov. 17.
The new facility will be 10,800 square feet of learning space for the school district’s alternative high school, located at Wasson Lane and Cemetery Road. The building will contain a multitude of specialized spaces for students:
• Computer tech ed space: Upgraded shop and lab spaces, tech equipment with a more productive layout/flex space, graphic design capability, and full family and consumer education spaces with a full kitchen
• Science: Full high school lab for biology and chemistry
• Social and emotional health: Space for a psychologist, SRO, guidance, a social worker, and parent, student, teacher meetings • A dedicated break out and media center space
• Individual student shower spaces
• Space for future enrollment growth At the Aug. 2 River Falls Plan Commission meeting, Planner Sam Burns presented the rezoning petition for 1.57 acres of land requested by Joe Fischer of River City Roundabout LLC. The company is working with the School District of River Falls to build an alternative school on the property, which would eventually come under the school district’s ownership, similar to a lease to own agreement.
The area is surrounded by residential housing, a mobile home park, a storage unit facility, Kwik Trip, UW-River Falls and River Falls High School.
The Renaissance Academy, which this year will be housed at the former police station on Elm Street after Jan. 1, set up shop last year and the first half of this school year at UW-River Falls Hagestad Hall (262 E. Cascade Ave.)
The “Ren” as it’s affectionately called, is a charter school that offers programs centered on individualized learning with social and emotional support. The school, which has operated since 1998 is for students who are more hands-on learners or who flourish in a smaller environment.
“We have proudly served hundreds of students in an alternative learning environment with rigorous curriculum, hands-on learning experiences, and project-based and interest- based alternative instructional methods in a smaller community setting for these past 24 years,” said Superintendent Jamie Benson.
Throughout its existence, the school has been housed in six different locations but has continued to thrive, he added. Today, more than 60 students attend The Ren and enrollment continues to grow each year.
“This groundbreaking event brings the opportunity for a new permanent home to our growing school,” Benson said. “Our vision is to see this place become the Ren’s forever home.”
The groundbreaking ceremony represents the school board’s wisdom in understanding that all students matter, Benson explained.
“These values are reflected in this groundbreaking in knowing the community, board, administration and staff commitment to providing every student with high quality instruction grounded in a new facility of equal quality to our other schools,” Benson said. “Today we also raise the bar of support, confidence, and expectations for all students to better realize their dreams and ability to maximize their potential.”
At a special elector’s meeting Aug. 31, Benson said the 20-year lease comes with the option to purchase the building as soon as year two. The lease agreement costs about $19.65 a square foot with a 2% annual increase.
“In the district because we want this to be a school built to our standards from the ground up, the district is investing $880,000 as a part of the build up,” Benson said in August.
LHB Architects is designing the project, while Derrick Construction will take charge of building it.