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The ‘Wow!’ Factor of Benson Public Schools

By Reed Anfinson
Swift County Monitor-News
We’re celebrating community again!
So many of the events that drew us together as family, friends and community last year were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, there is a pent-up energy to gather and delight in one another’s company.

This week we are celebrating Benson’s 90th Kid Day. Saturday’s Kid Day parade, with the Benson High School marching band leading the way, is a highlight the day. But there so much more from the carnival in the Roosevelt Park, the classic car show, sporting tournaments, Kid Day Amazing Race, ribfest, car burnouts, live music, airplane rides and much more will all be exciting for kids and adults alike.

There will be families who no longer live in the area returning with the children and grandchildren to participate in Kid Day. There are class reunions coordinated with the Kid Day weekend.

But something else will be happening in the community at the same time for which we can all be proud. Residents of District 777/Benson Public Schools as well as those who attended BHS in the past but moved away and are now home for Kid Day will have the chance to see what a nearly $30 million investment in our schools has created.

In 2018, the voters of District 777 overwhelmingly passed a $26.3 million building bond levy with nearly 70 percent of those who went to the polls voting “yes.”

With the funds from the levy Benson schools:

- Added a new wing to the west end of the Northside Elementary School dedicated to infant and toddler daycare, pre-school children, and the Discovery Kids program. It is a facility and program that is as good as any in Minnesota.

It provides essential daycare to the working families of the area, enhancing the community’s economic development efforts. It makes the Benson area attractive to young families considering moving here.

Also at the Northside, a new cafeteria was added that can also be used for meetings and recreational activities. The addition freed space in the gymnasium, once needed to serve meals for physical education classes and events.

- At the Benson Senior High School, new classrooms and a collaborative learning area dedicated to 21st Century learning approaches.

- A new band room was added that is so much brighter and modern.

- The marginally used indoor swimming pool space was converted to a new gym that is larger than the high school auxiliary gym. It was a much-needed space for school physical education, sporting practices and events.

- And new security features to the Northside Elementary and Benson High School to protect our students.

While these new spaces in our schools were badly needed, provide modern educational facilities, meet community needs, and benefit the community’s economic development efforts there is one facility that many who have seen it agree provides a “Wow!” factor.

At Monday night’s District 777 Board of Education meeting, Senior High Principal Mike Knutson said that there is a common reaction among those who have been in the new BHS Performing Arts Center that replaced the 1928 Junior High School auditorium. “Wow!”

Though there have been several events in the PAC, including the BHS 2021 graduation and school music programs, there are still many who have yet to see just how impressive it is.

Many who attend Friday evening’s Hometown Showcase of homegrown musical talent at the PAC will get their first glimpse of what a wonderful facility the taxpayers of District 777 have given their community. But they should not let that be the last of their connection with all the improvements to our schools that have taken place. Come back Saturday to look around the Northside Elementary and BHS to see the other new additions.

In one more action that supports our schools, in April 2020 78 percent of the voters in the district approved a $1.5 million levy for the construction of a new sports facility. It is primarily being used for the BHS gymnastics program.

It was constructed on the school’s campus

For far too long the BHS gymnastics program athletes had to practice and perform the 1927 Benson Armory. Its cramped space was unsafe for practice and meets. Spectators were just a few feet away from the athletes. There was not pit for the gymnasts to safety practice their routines. Now we have an attractive new facility for competition and practice thanks to the perseverance of the gymnastics program supporters and the voters of District 777.

For those who will tour the additions to our schools there will be a lot of “Wow!” factors depending on their interests.

For us, the most important “Wow?!” factor is one represented by all those who visit the schools will see. It is for the District 777’s voters’ support for their children and community by passing the levy referendums that made it all possible. We must also acknowledge the members of the boards of education who had the courage and foresight to put the levy questions before the voters.

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