Dean Lakes Education Center


Students exited their buses with wide eyes as their teachers greeted them from the sidewalk. Looking up, they saw a fresh-faced, two story brick building with “SouthWest Metro Intermediate District 288” proudly stamped on the exterior. Slowly, the halls became full of laughter and excitement that the previously uninhabited building had not seen in years, if ever, as a former corporation headquarters.

The Dean Lakes Education Center (DLEC) is now the proud home to the SouthWest Metro (SWMetro) District Office and a collection of student programming. Among eager students are essential community partnerships in the form of leased space to the Scott County Community Development Agency (CDA) and ProAct, offering day programming for adults with disabilities.

Exterior drone photo of Dean Lakes from above. Snow covers the ground and the Shakopee water tower and other industrial buildings along route 169 are in the background.


DLEC occupies just over 100,000 square feet of space on the south side of highway 169 in Shakopee. Sandwiched between companies like Shutterfly and Bayer, the 2007 structure was built to house a technology company that has since expanded and moved to Colorado.

Originally a large swatch of open spaces peppered with cubicles and offices, SWMetro seized the opportunity to customize the building with specialized student services in mind. Much of the open footprint has been converted into 6 large-size classrooms, each accommodating up to 30 students comfortably. Where temperature-sensitive servers were housed, a work-based learning lab and large motor exercise room have been installed. A former utility space on the northwest side of the building hosts Outdoor Power Equipment, a new Career and Technical Education (CTE) Agriculture program focused on small gas engine operation.


Existing SWMetro programming, including Transition (Level IV Special Education for ages 18 to 21), Oasis (Level IV Special Education for grades 9 through 12), Reflections Day Treatment (in partnership with Scott County Mental Health Services), and Adult Education (GED preparation and English classes) have all moved to the new Dean Lakes campus with their own secure entrances to ensure privacy and convenience.

A selection of CTE courses have also been transplanted to DLEC from Chaska. Instructors have set up their computer lab for the Computer Networking classes, the aforementioned Outdoor Power Equipment Lab, and a growing Multimedia Studio. Other more traditionally structured classes include Criminal Justice and Education Pathways for aspiring teachers.

Photography instructor Wright Braudt demonstrates proper lighting for portraits to a group of 3 students.


While supporting the trades and encouraging students to embrace careers after high school (since paying for postsecondary education is often not an option for non-traditional students), SWMetro noted that college and university presence is lacking in the southwest suburban/rural corner of the twin cities. Unless a student has the means to live on campus or commute daily 45 minutes one way, the only way to achieve postsecondary success is online, which has been confirmed in the last 18 months to not be the best learning option for everyone.

Enter the Live-Learn-Earn Post-Secondary Education Committee. This collaborative enterprise through Scott County has a mission to create pathways for lifelong learners in the surrounding population. Jo Foust, co-chair of the committee, says that SWMetro’s DLEC is “helping achieve the Committee’s vision... so that businesses may gain and retain highly trained staff, prospective students can seek degrees and certifications, and the community may continue to develop and thrive”.

Superintendent Darren Kermes has curated a finely-tuned machine at DLEC. Working with his team, he has ensured infrastructure within the existing programming to accommodate for future partnerships with institutions like Dakota County Technical College and University of Minnesota so that satellite classes can be hosted at the campus. By providing accessibility to these classes in the community, local professionals and students can stay in the area without sacrificing their desired quality of life.

This partnership will also provide symbiosis with CTE and budding local businesses. The Scott County CDA, one of DLEC’s tenants, provides a program where aspiring entrepreneurs compete for space to incubate their business idea. With CTE programs like Multimedia Design and Computer Networking, these budget-conscious startups have the potential to provide internships and real-life experiences to enthusiastic students already on campus.


Although only one semester into the school year, Dean Lakes Education Center has already come alive with the bustling chatter of students moving from class to class, visitors touring rentable areas for their annual conferences, and staff working diligently to put the finishing touches on their spaces to provide for a customized experience for all who enter.

For more information, contact Darren Kermes, Superintendent of SouthWest Metro Intermediate District 288 at (952) 567-8102 or [email protected].