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Move in day at Wessington Springs School District

New interior glow for old school building in Wessington Springs ( Sheila Slater / Daily Republic )

WESSINGTON SPRINGS — For the middle and high school students of Wessington Springs, the start of the new school year also brings in a new era for the old school house.

The building, established in 1914, needed to be renovated due to leaking windows, aging plumbing and faulty electricals. First conversations about the renovation project started about two years ago.

"We thought, if we are going to pull the sheetrock out, we should make some other

changes as well. So it just kept going from there to seeing what all we needed to fix. We brought in some architects and some professional help to guide us through the process," said Amber Kolousek, vice chair of the Wessington Springs School Board.

After voters turned down a $4.5 million bond in November of last year, the school board marked the bond down to $3.5 million, excluding an originally proposed new gymnasium. This new bond proposal passed in January this year with 62 percent of the needed 60 percent. Approximately $1 million will come out of capital outlay from the Wessington Springs School Board.

"By the time the project is finalized it will have cost us about $4.6 million," Kolousek said.

Old artifacts like the brick archways and wooden doors are being preserved to keep the original character of the old building.

The renovated school will now offer a new band room, auditorium, a bigger art room and a math lab, as well as its own cafeteria called "Spartan Cafe." Middle and high school kids had to be bused to the elementary school for lunch in the past. Starting with the new school year, the high school students can now remain in the building during their lunch break.

About 50 volunteers and workers showed up Monday to help unpack books, set up desks, and put the final touches on the entirely renovated interior of the 104-year-old building.

A special area that will be decorated by the students in the new cafeteria is designated to the late Jack Ferguson of Wessington Springs. Ferguson was a dedicated advocate for children and education and was recently posthumously awarded a prestigious, statewide Associated School Boards of South Dakota (ASBSD) Community Service award Aug. 15. Ferguson lost his battle to cancer in late July.