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Hancock, Finlandia on right track

January 22, 2009
The Daily Mining Gazette

Officials from the Hancock Public Schools and Finlandia University should be congratulated for thinking outside the box and coming up with creative solutions for difficult situations.

A swap for the Hancock Middle School building and Condon athletic field for $4.2 million in scholarships for Hancock graduates at Finlandia over the next 12 years seems like a win-win, if not a win-win-win.

Not only do Hancock Schools and Finlandia both win, but the greater community wins, as well.

As Hancock looks forward to moving into its newly constructed Middle School digs on Campus Drive around Jan. 1 of next year, officials have been searching for a good outcome for their 1923 building on Quincy Street.

The 86-year-old structure has housed different mixtures of grade levels over the years, including K-12 for awhile, according to superintendent John Vaara. But in recent decades, Hancock has built new elementary and high schools up on the hill. Adding a Middle School wing will consolidate much of the school's activities, including busing.

But what to do with the old building? Leaving it to rot and fall down under disrepair and neglect was not an option, according to Vaara. The district was unable to find a buyer for the building and was prepared to let bids for its raising, if need be, at an estimated cost between $500,000-$800,000.

Enter Finlandia. The small, private, liberal arts institution is looking to expand and is located just blocks from the building.

Finlandia figures the mature edifice still has some good use left in it and is looking to move its College of Health and Sciences there, including its nursing and physical therapy programs.

While Finlandia will assume the maintenance of the building, its value far outweighs the brick and mortar costs of building something new.

Deeding Condon Field to Finlandia is also a good idea. The university is looking to make major improvements including an all-weather playing surface and lights for soccer and football, plus rejuvenating a nearby ball field for women's softball. A renewable 12-year agreement will allow the Hancock Bulldogs to continue to use the facility.

The scholarship benefits are astounding. Nearly the entire Hancock student body, through the Class of 2020 - this year's first graders - is in line to benefit. Finlandia will hand out $4.2 million in $100,000 lump sums to each class across four years of college.

While the final details of the deed transfers, scholarship requirements and disbursements, and athletic field use agreements may still need to be hammered out, the synergy of these two proud educational institutions working together can only lead to more positives within each school.

Finlandia's enrollment, and educational and extra-curricular programs look to benefit. Hancock's students will benefit, too. In this climate of school-of-choice, Hancock Schools could see an influx of students with the promise of a Finlandia scholarship in the future. That would bring more state aid to the system and benefit all of Hancock's students, should they choose to attend Finlandia or not.

We are sure the community of Hancock and the surrounding area will also feel positive repercussions from the creative thinking and astute problem solving here.



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