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Tour of former school jogs fond staff memories

Staff photo by Fritz Busch Former District 88 teachers from left, Virg Debban, New Ulm; Harley Goff, Mankato; John Ingebritson and Steve Moran, both of New Ulm visit while touring Emerson Union Monday. The former New Ulm High School building is now 49 apartments after a $15 million rehabilitation and historic preservation project.

NEW ULM — Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Former District 88 teachers were anything but absent as 55 of them toured Emerson Union Monday.

The former New Ulm High School and Junior High School building became 49 apartments after a $15 million rehabilitation and historic preservation project.

The City of New Ulm and community partners began working with a non-profit developer, The Community Housing Development Corporation (CHDC) in 2016.

It was a walk down memory lane for the former teachers who laughed and hugged each other before learning about the project from Senior Vice President/Emerson Union Project Manager Heidi Rathmann of Minneapolis and a New Ulm High School graduate.

Harley Goff of Mankato taught freshman small engines and mechanics at the school in 1979-1980 and couldn’t stop from talking about it.

“My students were all boys. They were really enjoyable and enthusiastic,” Goff said. “Some of my students wanted to get to school early to work on their shop class projects, so they’d flag me down to pick them up as I drove to New Ulm from Mankato early in the morning. We totally rebuilt small engines.”

Goff said he found the parents of his New Ulm students very supportive of the school, more so than any other school he taught at.

Who taught at the school the longest and is still alive to tell about it?

Joe Poncin said he taught at the school for 39 years.

Some of his students reached high positions. Poncin said one is an executive at Xcel Energy.

Rathmann said a number of apartments in the former school listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015, have already been leased.

Apartments will be leased to individuals and families earning 50 to 60 percent of the Area Median Income, about $31,000 to $49,000 annually, depending on household size.

The project included replacement of all mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. City steam heat provides hot water to mechanical systems.

Windows are preserved in the 1956 addition. New, historic replica windows were added in the 1915 and 1939 buildings, maximizing energy efficiency.

Efficient, LED lights are used throughout.

Historic, built-in cabinets, chalkboards, bulletin boards, woodwork and flooring was preserved throughout the building.

A playground and seating area will be added behind the building.

Apartment rents including utilities are $493 to $583 for one bedroom, $649 to $690 for two bedrooms and $771 to $795 for three bedrooms.

For more information, visit www.chdcmn.org and www.lloydmanagementinc.com.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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