Amongst the tranquil Woodland neighborhood in Duluth, Minnesota, a remarkable transformation is taking place. In 2022, Stella Maris Academy High School opened its doors. While the new school spans five floors and vast acreage, only half of the building is currently accessible, with the rest still under construction. Thanks to Power North members, such as electricians Nick Nummela and Todd Anderson at Benson Electric Company, the building should fully be open in early 2024.
This ambitious goal started six years ago and continues to evolve.
“It was always in the plans to have a high school, but kind of the first step in the process was to bring all of the schools together under one entity, which is Stella Maris Academy,” said Principal Chris Lemke of Stella Maris Academy High School.
The perfect spot arose when the St. James Orphanage building went for sale in 2021. The original building was built in 1910 and overseen by the diocese of Duluth. Later, it served as Hills Youth and Family Services until its unexpected closure in 2021. Recognizing an opportunity, Stella Maris Academy swiftly acquired the sprawling facility, covering 130 acres and numerous buildings, for a significant sum of four million dollars. This acquisition marked the first step in realizing their dream of establishing a high school that would serve the community for generations to come.
Converting the former orphanage into a state-of-the-art school required substantial financial resources and experts in a range of fields.
“As you can imagine, buying the building with 130 acres and all of the buildings that are associated with it, was wonderful, but we’re changing it into a school,” explained Principal Lemke. “So that’s also a financial investment. We have a capital campaign that’s been working on that, that’s kind of an ongoing funding program.”
With those funds, the school hired union electricians to ensure that every space was safely powered up. As of 2023, the school is running throughout half the building. The other half is still under construction and should be finished up in the next few months.
“We’re in the process of phase 1, we’ll be going to phase 2 where we’ll be adding another 10 classrooms,” explains Principal Lemke. “Going forward, we’re going to have enough class space for even up to 7th to 12th grade if that’s the direction we end up going.”
Principal Lemke also envisions the addition of a science wing and a dedicated performing arts area, further enhancing the school’s facilities.
To make this vision come to life, the Benson Electric team is busy working on installing electricity throughout the hallways and classrooms. They are proud to be helping to usher in a new era for this historic building.
If you are interested in hiring union electricians for your next project, reach out to Power North to find the teams in your area.