$5M special education facility being planned

A new, $5-million facility for Level 4 special education students in Nevis, Park Rapids and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley is in the planning stages.

The building will be paid for by Sourcewell and is expected to open in the fall of 2021 on the site of the old Ah-Gwah-Ching facility, off Hwy. 371 near Walker.

Level 4 students are defined as learners who receive education programs for more than 50 percent of the school day in a specially designed facility or program for special education students only.

Superintendent Gregg Parks told the Nevis School Board Monday night that the new project was approved at the latest Walker-Hackensack-Akeley School Board meeting.


“We see the Level 4 facility as an opportunity to combine the resources of our three districts to meet the needs of some of our most ‘in need’ students,” Parks said. “As we sit today, it’s going to be at the old Ah-Gwah-Ching site. It’s about time, as I think that place has been empty for 10 years. The previous Alternative Learning Center for Walker was at that site.”

Ah-Gwah-Ching first opened in 1907 as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. In 1957, the official name of the sanatorium was changed to the Minnesota State Sanatorium. The facilities at Walker later became the Ah-Gwah-Ching Nursing Home, a state institution for geriatric patients.

A tentative start date of July 1 is planned for work to begin on the new facility.

“There is still a lot of work to do regarding the day-to-day operations of the facility and how it will be funded by each district. The PAWN board of directors will be reviewing options for how to best fiscally fund and operate the new facility,” said Parks.

Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
What To Read Next
Get Local