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LUHS Agrees to Lease Off-Campus Facility for More Charter School Space

Wikimedia Commons GP Reimer

  The Lakeland Union High School District board of education has agreed to lease a portion of a nearby professional building to accommodate the educational needs of the Lakeland STAR Academy, a charter school primarily for 9-12th grade students on the autism spectrum.

However, a couple of board member were concerned that the lease agreement was signed by a school official before it was presented to the school board for approval. Barb Peck told Gregg Walker, president of the governance council, a body that oversees the charter school, that she disagreed with the process.

“I don’t think anyone here has a problem with what was done,” she said. “We support what you do. I mean, it’s a great decision. Still, that’s not the issue. It just looks a little funny that we are doing something (approving the lease) after the fact.”

District Administrator Rob Way recommended the lease approval. “It's a solid agreement to get assistance for our students at the Academy,” he said.

The rented suite is at the Professional & Financial Plaza Building, 8721 Highway 51. Trygve (Trig) Solberg owns the building. He signed the lease agreement on Aug. 19. STAR Academy Director Eric Mikoleit signed the lease agreement on Aug. 3.

Walker said the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the closure of the Practical Assessment Exploration System (PAES), a hands-on work lab at Howard Young Medical Center in Woodruff that is used by the charter school students and others in the community.

While the PAES lab couldn’t be relocated, the governance council still needed to find additional classroom and office space for teachers and students, said Mikoleit. The charter school’s main facility is on-campus in the former Nicolet College outreach building. The charter school is nearly fully staffed, he said, and needs only one more case manager.

The governance council president was surprised that the board of education wasn’t aware of the search for additional classroom space, which began last June. He noted there is a steering committee that interacts with the governance council. He also thought minutes of their meetings were being sent to district board members. Nonetheless, he assured board members they would be informed of any major developments or proposals in the future.

Helping cement the board’s approval was the announcement that the Howard Young Foundation is picking up the total cost of the monthly rental and related costs, including the prorated maintenance fee. The cost of the lease for the 2,325-square-foot suite is $1,937 monthly, or $23,250 annually. The lease is on a month-to-month basis.\

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