The Faribault Public School Board unanimously passed a motion to have the Cannon Valley Special Education Co-op (CVSEC) lease the former JC Penny store in the Faribo West Mall.  The Co-op is comprised of the Faribault, Northfield, Owatonna and Medford school districts.

The lease would begin June 1, 2021 if approved by all the districts.  Faribault was the first to approve the consolidation.

It was explained to the School Board Monday during their business meeting the cooperative has been in existence since the 2015-2016 school year. Faribault ISD 656 Special Education Director Rob Dehnert explained Faribault was paired with Northfield for a two district special education cooperative in 2014-2015 when the Department of Education told them they needed a larger cooperative.

The cooperative has been leasing three buildings and with the move to one facility the savings would be $507,434. This includes more efficiencies in staffing, mileage savings, garbage, utilities, cleaning services, etc.

Superintendent Todd Sesker added the district talked to Austin and Albert Lea about joining Faribault and Northfield and looked at the former WalMart building in Owatonna.  After that didn't materialize they approached Owatonna and Medford and formed the four school district special education cooperative.

A couple years ago the cooperative tried to purchase the former Kmart in Dundas but were outbid.

Dehnert told the Faribault Public School Board during their business meeting, "In 2014-15 we spent about 1.3 million dollars to provide the program in house.  So that was when we had the joint powers agreement with Northfield,  It cost Faribault 1.3 million dollars.  Because of the way special education funding works, we are always a year behind. So when we transitioned to CVSEC our bill went down quite substantially to $300,000.  That's never going to happen again.  That's just because of the way the finance works."

However Dehnert said the four school district cooperative has resulted in Faribault spending about $900,000 a year.

The JC Penny lease would be split among the four school districts.  The former store is 41,160 square feet. The Faribault School Board packet has a lease cost listed at $24 per square feet amounting to $987,840.

The percentage breakdown by district is listed as:

  • Owatonna 36%
  • Faribault    31%
  • Northfield  29%
  • Medford      4%

The percentage is based on the number of students utilizing the services.

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