SARTELL -- The former early childhood learning space inside the Sartell-St. Stephen District office building didn't sit empty for very long.

The space is being leased by the Benton-Stearns Education District, who have outgrown their current location in Sauk Rapids.

Executive Director Alicia Jepsen says when they learned Sartell would be moving out, they felt this was a great opportunity to expand their programming.

It's a really nice fit for our elementary program. During this COVID-19 pandemic where we need to spread our students out and help them socially distance, this just worked out really well as we can spread our programs out between the two sites.

Jepsen says the Sartell location will house their Pioneer Elementary Programs, while the Sauk Rapids location will continue to be used for their Voyagers and New Frontiers programs.

She says the collaboration is a perfect match for both sides.

It's such a great opportunity and we are really appreciative for Sartell's willingness to consider our use of their space. It's a great collaborative opportunity for our six districts, Benton-Stearns and all our students in our community.

Benton-Stearns provides special education support for roughly 80 students in Kindergarten through 21-years-old in the Sauk Rapids-Rice, Sartell, Rocori, Holdingford, Kimball and Foley school districts.

Benton-Stearns Education District has been around since the 1970's.

Sartell-St. Stephen Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert says the district office will continue to operate in their portion of the building.

The district's Early Childhood programming moved out to Oak Ridge Early Learning Center as part of Sartell's building reconfiguration.

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