The countdown: Top 10 local news stories of 2013Published 6:50am Wednesday, January 1, 2014
(4) I.J. Holton Intermediate School opens
A new school opened in Austin this year, the culmination of almost five years of work to accommodate more students who attend Austin Public Schools. I.J. Holton Intermediate School officially opened its doors at the beginning of September, to much anticipation by the community.
A 2009 study by demographer Hazel Reinhardt showed Austin would grow by 300 to 400 students by 2014 based on Mower County birth records, and a 2010 facilities study found every district school except Austin High School was at capacity or overcrowded.
The district announced plans for a facilities task force, which came together to study the problem. The task force proposed 23 solutions, which they whittled down to a new fifth- and sixth-grade school. The Austin Public Schools Board showed interest in creating a science, technology, engineering, fine arts and mathematics (STEAM) school for students at that age.
Austin residents approved a $28.9 million referendum in November of 2011 to build the new school, along with a remodel and expansion of Woodson Kindergarten Center. The referendum passed 2,971 to 2,543 — a margin of 428 votes.
Construction began in spring 2012, while the district hired former Woodson principal Jeanne McDermott as the new school’s principal. While construction took place, district staff worked with the University of Minnesota to develop a STEAM curriculum and the community helped choose the new school’s name through a submission campaign. A subcommittee ultimately presented five choices to the school board, which approved and finalized I.J. Holton Intermediate School at the end of 2012.
The school held an open house and dedication at the end of September, around the time the building was completed. Students have benefited from the STEAM approach as they tackle school-wide projects. The school also incorporates new technology; each student is issued their own laptop.
“This is a real accomplishment, and we thank the community for supporting us in this project,” Superintendent David Krenz said in November.