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Letter: Support for new NLA school needed

The Northern Lights Academy is a school district serving students who need special education support for their whole school day. The staff at NLA believe all students deserve the opportunity to become academically successful and socially responsible citizens.

This year they have asked the Minnesota Legislature for help in replacing outdated learning spaces which are also too small to serve all the students who need their level of support. Thank you, Sen. Jason Rarick and Rep. Jeff Dotseth, for introducing HF 4282 and SF 3939 — a request for approximately $6 million in state bonding assistance to pay for approximately half of the project.

Northern Lights Academy serves students from 12 area school districts. They currently operate on two campuses in the Cloquet/Carlton area and are in desperate need of a new facility. NLA’s primary goal is to teach students the skills they need to successfully transition them back to their serving/resident district.

Several years ago, when our son was struggling in the public school setting, we enrolled him in NLA. His transition changed our lives. The staff and programming were exactly what our son needed. They focused not only on his academic progress but the behavioral competencies that would allow him to re-enter the regular classroom. We are proud to say that our son, a sophomore, has been mainstreamed part-time back in his old school. We hope he will eventually become a full-time public school student. This would not have happened without the support and expertise of the NLA staff.

With a new facility, NLA would be able to provide services to any student needing a higher level of support.

We know that the member school districts understand the need and are unified to turn the vision into a reality. However, there are very limited funding options to build cooperative facilities under current legislation. This is why we have turned to our legislators for support. Thanks to representatives Zeleznikar, Skraba, and Lislegard; and Sen. Hauschild for signing on to Dotseth and Rarick’s bills in support of Northern Lights. With this bipartisan, multi-district support, we are hopeful funding can make it over the finish line this session.

Gordy Westendorf, Cindy Roden,