The Every Child Has Opportunities Charter School (ECHO) in Echo recently made a surprising and exciting announcement: the small school would be receiving $1 million.

According to Helen Blue-Redner, ECHO Charter School director, the money comes at a critical time for the school.

Just last November, Blue-Redner had to respond to community rumors that the school was in danger of closing. While the school had no plans to close, the challenges facing the school (including declining enrollment) were real enough.

The bequeathment comes from the estate of Orlo B. Lecy. Blue-Redner said that not much is known about Lecy, who passed away in January at the age of 96. School administrators learned that he was a 1940 graduate of the Echo Public School. 

The attorney representing the estate said that Lecy was a savvy investor who lived most of his adult life in Idaho and California.

Blue-Redner said that Lecy never had kids or married. Several families with the surname “Lecy” can be found in the area, though Blue-Redner explained that they have been unable to identify any living relatives remaining in the Echo area. She added that it’s possible there are distant relatives still in the region, but so far, nobody knows more about Orlo.

ECHO was first launched back in 1997 as a charter school. The first academic year saw a total of 185 students enrolled. However last year, there were only 75 students. This drop reflects the ongoing demographic decline in many rural areas of Minnesota.

The school primarily serves local students within the historical Echo School District, in addition to students from neighboring districts such as Yellow Medicine East and Lakeview. Currently, the ECHO board of directors is meeting on a regular basis to discuss how best to put the money to use.

Blue-Redner said that they are focusing on how to make the school attractive to more students by expanding options. She went on to emphasize the importance of using the money in a way that is sustainable, intelligent and thoughtful. There are still many decisions that need to be made, but Blue-Redner is optimistic about the possibilities. School officials say that they are expecting to have access to the funds before the start of the upcoming academic year.

– Kyle Klausing is the editor of the Granite Falls Advocate-Tribune