St. Paul’s expansion seeks to position school for growth, outreach

NEW ULM — The major upgrade and expansion project at St. Paul’s Lutheran Elementary School completed and showcased in open houses earlier this year will help the school grow and “share the word of God with more children, in the context of an excellent education,” according to Principal Peter Markgraf.

The project, with an overall price tag of $7.3 million, includes a new entrance, offices, pre-school wing, STEM and art facilities, elevator, band room, air conditioning, lights, windows, and many other improvements.


One of the goals of the new facility was to create a safe school, according to project documentation. The new entrance provides the school with that safety. Parents and visitors have controlled access to the building through one central entrance. Emergency systems are also in place to contact the police should a dangerous situation arise.

New band room

The new band room utilizes a unique setup. Soundproofing was added above the ceiling tile, the ceiling was raised in the back of the room to make room for storage, and steps were added for the percussion section.

Revamped classrooms

Last summer, all the classrooms were emptied and remodeled. This was the biggest remodeling St. Paul’s has undertaken since the building opened in 1971. The new carpet squares have a hint of the school colors and a new design pattern. The tile along the cabinets is also new and appropriate for spills and water usage.

The old rectangle ceiling tiles were replaced with new square tiles. Bright LED lights have replaced the old fluorescent lights. This gives the rooms a much brighter look. Each classroom also has the ability to use a dimming switch to reduce the brightness as needed. The lights in public spaces are motion controlled.

In each classroom, the clouded windows were taken out and replaced with new clear windows. The new windows are also energy efficient. The project added a new heating and cooling system. The entire facility was given a new coat of paint.

The upper-grade classrooms replaced their Smartboards with new interactive televisions. There is no projector- they are more like a large tablet.

Sprinkler system

One aspect of the safety plan was to install a sprinkler system throughout the school. Sprinkler heads can be spotted in every room throughout the school, including the gym.


Quickly becoming one of the favorite new features, the new elevator provides more flexibility, said Markgraf. The school can move people and heavy equipment from one floor to the next. This will make the whole building more accessible and provide opportunities for all regardless of mobility issues.

Art and Stem

The new art and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) spaces increased opportunities for students and teachers. A schedule is in place, so that all grade levels make use of this space — whether it is to experiment with a ramp or create a masterpiece.


The improvements to the kitchen make it a fully functional and regulation-compliant space. All stainless steel equipment gives cooks the ability to serve more than 300 elementary students and all preschool programs on any given day. Fridge and freezer space has been expanded. The serving area has been completely updated.

Preschool wing

The preschool section of the school features new space for large motor activities.This space can also be used for recess in bad weather.

The new preschool classrooms were specifically designed for young children. One of the features that can’t be seen is the in-floor heating around the outside perimeter of the rooms.The preschool program will continue to offer a half-day program in one room and a full-day program in another. A third room is available for future expansion. Each room is equipped with storage space and connecting bathrooms.

Delivery hall

The new delivery hall provides a safe delivery area. This area also has room for storage. Food and milk deliveries are made on a regular basis. The garbage is collected at the end of a long hallway. This ends the practice of walking outside to the dumpster.

Tradition looking

into future

St. Paul’s church and school have been part of the community since about 1885, sums up Markgraf. As visitors enter the remodeled school, they can see an old German language name plate. Moved into the building in 1971, it was originally located on the school built in 1900 across the street from St. Paul’s Church. To many, it is a symbolic link between past and future.

As people enter the school, they also pass by the school logo. It displays the cross at the center to remind families and visitors of the school’s purpose. “We want to share the cross of Christ that saves all from their sins,” says Markgraf.


The funds for the project are being raised in a multi-year campaign, with 3.2 million of the $7.3 million already raised, as of this printing.

Future elements of the upgrade — with as yet undetermined timeline — include a new gym.


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