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B&G Club may move to Rossman

The Boys and Girls Club of Detroit Lakes is bursting at the seams, with overcrowding forcing some club members out of the main building on Richwood Road and into Grace Lutheran Church. If the school bond referendum passes, club members may be going over to the Rossman Elementary School building, where they will have nearly twice the space. BRIAN BASHAM/DL NEWSPAPERS

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and in this village, the responsibility of education spreads beyond the k-12 school system.

The Boys and Girls Club and the Lincoln Education Center are two programs that care for and nurture the area’s children.

So as the school district grows and overcrowding becomes more of an issue in the schools, it make sense that these two programs will also begin to outgrow their facilities.

The school bond referendum is coming to a vote Nov. 5, and this has officials at both places crossing their fingers for the “Yes” vote.

The Boys and Girls Club

Just three years ago, the Boys and Girls Club of Detroit Lakes was pretty full, with an average of 110 students going over there for after-school care.

Now, it’s a different story.

“We had 151 kids yesterday,” said Pat Peterman, executive director of the club.  Peterman says they’ve always been crowded at their facility on the hill on Richwood Road, but now they’re bursting at the seams.

“The space we have isn’t adequate for programming — we should have twice the space we do now,” he said, adding that the club is now transporting its 26 fifth- and sixth-graders to Grace Lutheran Church across the street to relieve some of the congestion.

Summer camp attendance is also up, which meant many families were on a waiting list this year before a plan was devised to send some over to the M State technical college and some over to Grace Lutheran.

None of it is the ideal situation for the club, “but there’s only so many kids you can safely put in a building,” said Peterman, who also says the facility is old and in need of repair.

“Parts of it are 80 years old; the stairwells are dark and we do have to put money into it to fix some of the safety concerns.”

The city, which owns the building, lets the Boys and Girls Club use the facility rent-free.

However, the time has come where club officials say they need a bigger, better solution.

Their first choice — the passing of the school bond referendum, which holds a tentative plan to partner with the district with the Boys and Girls Club.

The club could then be moved into the south and east sides of the Rossman Elementary building.  If it happens, the club would lease the space to be used solely by its members after school and in the summer.

Peterman says although there would need to be somewhat of a capital campaign to do some reconstruction of the space, it wouldn’t be nearly the cost of the alternatives.

“Because we have to do something,” said Peterman, “and if this doesn’t work we would probably have to either build new or try adding on and repairing the old place.”

Peterman says pairing with the school district would be the “perfect marriage,” given the fact that their goals are the same for the children they serve. 

“We’re doing so much more with education and targeted services now,” said Peterman, who says teachers from the school are on site after school to help with homework.

The club is also seeing an increase in the number of meals it serves to the children.

“So having that kitchen and cafeteria right there in Rossman would be nice, too,” said Peterman, who says it’s possible fellow tenants of the Rossman building would also be a good fit for them.

The preschoolers

Down the hallways of the Rossman school could possibly be the preschoolers — 3- through 5-year-olds that currently go to the Lincoln Education Center.

Paths between club members and preschoolers wouldn’t likely be passed, as preschool is during school hours, and the club runs after school.

However, Peterman says he believes them sharing a building would be a “natural transition” for the little ones who very well may be club members once they begin kindergarten.

It’s a possible move that has folks at the Lincoln Education Center excited, as they are also feeling the tight squeeze in their building.

“We’re juggling schedules just to try to make this work with the classrooms,” said Early Childhood Family Education and School Readiness Coordinator Coreen Swenson.

Swenson says although staff has been shifting people and classes around in an attempt to “make do” with what they’ve got, the demand for preschool education is seeing a strong growth — and according to Swenson, they cannot grow with it in the current location.

“We can’t offer the kind of program we want to because there’s no space,” she said, adding that Head Start is able to provide 4-day a week education to its students.  “But in some cases, we can only do two hours a day, two days a week because we have to get those students out to get the next ones in.”

And they are also in need of adequate classrooms, she added, saying one of their preschool rooms doesn’t even have a bathroom or sink — both of which are crucial for this type of programming.

Swenson says studies have proven to legislators that preschool education makes a huge, lasting difference for students starting school, and a push for more of it will only make their space issues worse as time goes on. 

“Our goal is to be able to provide a preschool education for every single child in the district,” said Superintendent Doug Froke, as he made the case for the bond referendum at a community meeting a couple of weeks ago.

The idea of moving into the north wing of Rossman has early education professionals crossing their fingers at what could be.

“That space (in Rossman) has so many possibilities that would allow us to expand,” said Swenson.  “We’d be able to spread out, teachers maybe wouldn’t have to share desks ... We could start all of the kids out on an even keel.”