Clinton prepares for middle school and population growth

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Clinton is embracing potential economic development from the upcoming federal prison in Thomson. But before hundreds of employees arrive, the school district is preparing for the future.

Emily Steenhard is ringing up a sale on Wednesday morning. Inside The Painted Rooster boutique, 212 5th Avenue South in Clinton, family members feature gifts and clothes made in the USA.

As mom to Reagan, 5, Emily shares excitement over Clinton's upcoming middle school.

"I just want him to want to go to school," she said.

And that's helping to motivate plans for the $20 million project. Clinton is funding it with its penny sales tax. Construction should begin in spring 2013.

When the school opens in fall 2014, it will serve some 850 kids. Like her sister Emily, Erin George's daughter, Ellery, 5, will eventually attend classes there.

"When I grew up in Clinton, Clinton had a great public school system," Erin said. "And that's what I want for my kids. That's part of the reason why I moved back to the area."

Just 14 miles away, the Thomson Correctional Center is set to become a federal prison one day. Many of its projected 1,100 employees could live in Clinton. The school district is making room by adding classrooms and having expansion plans.

After dealing with declining enrollment, it's a pleasant change of pace for the district.

"It's incredibly hard to cut funding, cut your budget every year and provide the best education possible for kids," said Clinton Superintendent Deb Olson. "I believe that we're ready to do that now."

Even with the anticipated influx from Thomson, there will be plenty of room for Reagan and Ellery when they're ready for middle school.

For their moms, the new school seems to be a good investment in the community.

"It's important because if the environment that you're in isn't conducive to learning, then you're not going to perform well," Emily said.

"If you didn't build it in anticipation of what's to come in the future, there's really no point of doing it," Erin added.

For these ladies, it's something to crow about at The Painted Rooster.

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