Skip to main content

Boreal Community Media

Great Expectation School receives two separate donations of land as expansion (and connection) continues, by Sammie Garrity

Aug 29, 2023 11:37AM ● By Content Editor

Photo: Laura Durenberger-Grunow

By Sammie Garrity for Boreal Community Media - August 29, 2023

Great Expectations School (GES) is a free public charter school located in Grand Marais, Minnesota that serves students in Kindergarten through 8th grade. The mission of GES is to develop in each child a lifelong love of learning, a  strong sense of self, mastery of the academic building blocks, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, the ability to nurture meaningful relationships with others, an understanding and appreciation of the natural world, and a strong commitment to being a contributing member of a community. 

These values aim to educate children to become upstanding members of society and are transferred into the community itself. Many active GES community members often display immense generosity towards furthering the education of Cook County children - one being Jerry Starr.

Recently, GES broke ground on an expansion project that has been over five years in the making. Part of the project forced construction to uproot the playground, yurt, sheds, and other structures. With a concern for the children and their lack of area to play, Starr donated a piece of land to the school. The piece includes “The wooded parcel directly west of the school, which has been named ‘Betty’s  Woods’ in honor of the school’s neighbor, Betty Husky,” said GES director Rachael Lehman, to Boreal Community Media. 

Starr isn’t the only one who has the best interests of the children in mind, either. Hamilton Habitat also donated a woodland area for educational and local use, which is located at the intersection of East 5th Street and 7th Ave E. The parcel from Starr and the Hamilton Habitat piece will be used to give children an area to play, and most importantly, to learn. 

 This map represents approximate locations for Betty's Woods donated by Jerry Starr (blue), and the other land parcel donated by Hamilton Habitat (red). 

“GES is lucky to have so many local champions,” said Lehman.  

“From the beginning, chartered public schools in Minnesota were designed to be unique organizations:  a non-profit operating a public school (every charter school is in a school district); employees that are at will, but public employees for retirement purposes; schools focused on innovation and accountability in exchange for autonomy; public schools that cannot use public funds to purchase or build facilities; and governance boards whose majority of members were teachers employed by the school. Nine years ago when the current grade configurations and classroom caps were set, the Foundation began planning the physical expansion of the building,” said Lehman. 

This new space will serve to provide five permanent classrooms that GES provides. There will also be a larger kitchen and breakout spaces for all staff. These additions serve to create more space for the ever-growing class sizes that GES has.  

A lot of progress has been made this summer with the demolition of buildings and the relocation of others. The main building was reshingled to prepare for the installation of solar panels—funded by a  school supporter. Bridges were built to connect Betty’s Woods and the old land. There are also plans being made for a new basketball and four square courts. 

What is particularly interesting about this progress is that it was all done by volunteers. Families cleared the land, moved the sheds, and made space for construction to begin.  

As a former student at GES, I can attest to the strong sense of community that the school builds. For every event, every fundraiser, and every lunch there were always parents ready and willing to help.  There is something special about the strong connection that the school builds with the families of the students. It is something that I haven’t ever seen in any school I’ve been to. 

“It really does take a village,” said Lehman.

Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here