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Hope floats? Winona State to give houseboat classroom a spin

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Expanding the horizons of higher education everywhere, Winona State University has announced plans for a classroom floating on the Mississippi.

The Winona Daily News reports that the university announced this week that it has secured enough funding to begin work on the Dr. Calvin R. Fremling Floating Interpretive Center and Classroom, a 49-passenger boat the university will use to provide educational and social opportunities on the Mississippi River.

Winona State hopes to have the boat ready for use by spring 2014.

Jim Schmidt, Winona State's vice president for advancement, said the university has raised $550,000 for the boat and is creating an endowment to cover operating costs, according the Associated Press. SkipperLiner out of La Crosse, Wis., is working on the design for the boat, which will be accessible for disabled students and staff, says the AP.

WSU has been here before. It acquired a houseboat in the early 2000s for use as a floating classroom. But in 2008, the U.S. Coast Guard came to Winona to inspect the ferries transporting people across the river and discovered the boat was out of code, and Winona State sold it.

Fremling was a longtime professor of biology at Winona State and renowned Mississippi River expert who died in 2010 at age 80. Fremling was one of the best-loved and remembered professors in WSU’s history, says the Winona paper.

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