Ground has been broken on a new building for the Bridges Area Learning Center, the alternative high school program in the Prior Lake-Savage Area School District.

Well, sort of.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the building on Tuesday, but official construction will begin in a few weeks, Superintendent Dr. Teri Staloch said. The groundbreaking was held early in order for Bridges Area Learning Center Coordinator Dave Brown to attend. Brown, who is a member of the National Guard of the United States, leaves on Sunday for a nearly year-long deployment in Kuwait. Prior Lake High School Assistant Principal Heather Fitzloff will serve as coordinator until Brown returns.

The new Bridges Area Learning Center building will be next to Twin Oaks Middle School on Fish Point Road in Prior Lake. Construction is expected to be complete in fall 2019, according to the district’s construction timeline.

The Bridges Area Learning Center is housed in a strip mall on Franklin Trail in Prior Lake. The funding for the building was included in the $109.3 million referendum approved by voters in November 2017. Also included in the referendum was a new elementary school and additions to Prior Lake High School and six other schools.

“It’s going to be a game changer for student experience and for the district,” Brown said. “It will allow our staff to utilize these spaces to build connections, to increase engagement, to really move forward the work of personalized learning and project-based learning in ways we just can’t here.”

The Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board approved the design plans for the building on July 9.

The main entrance of the building will face Twin Oaks Middle School and an outdoor seated area along the back of the building will face 160th Street. To the left of the main entrance will be reception, a main office, office spaces and a work room for teachers.

In the back of the building toward the right will be the kitchen and cafeteria, which has a door to the outdoor seated area.

The middle of the building will feature a large commons area with tables and work stations.

“The school is broken into two sections with a commons area and a learning section where kids are going to be able to go, with a ton of glass and natural lighting,” Brown said. “We intentionally designed this to allow students to be in different areas to allow that to support whatever work they’re doing in their classes.”

The back of the building will have two small classrooms, with the ability to hold 20-25 students and a large classroom with a dividing wall to be able to split into two classrooms.

“There are multiple different classrooms because a lot of the work we do here is personalized learning,” Brown said. “We have a wide variety of students and student abilities here so our teachers are masters at meeting students where they’re at. To help with that, we have a few different classrooms.”

To the right of the classrooms at the back of the building will be a maker lab, with computers, learning stations and materials for students to work on projects. The maker lab also has a door that leads to the outdoor seated area.

“Any kind of class that has a design, creation flavor to it will be held in (the maker lab),” Brown said. “We intentionally, in this classroom, put a door to the outside because a lot of the stuff that happens here, happens outside, so we wanted easy access.”

The front and far left of the building will have one small classroom and one medium-sized classroom.

“It’s a bigger classroom to make it more comfortable — the intent is to keep everyone there for that period,” Brown said.

The new building will be a big change from the current location.

“All of these things were planned intentionally to make the most conducive area for student learning in all areas — academic, social, emotional,” Brown said. “All of this — the design, the colors, the lighting, the variety of all of it — is supporting the whole student experience.”

Maggie Stanwood was born and raised in small-town Iowa before moving to Wyoming in middle school. After her brief stint in the Wild West, she attended the University of Missouri - Columbia, where she graduated in May 2017 with a Bachelors in Journalism.