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LP-A looks at options for remodeling

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

The Lake Park-Audubon School Board is looking at doing what it can to improve its two school buildings.

"We're looking right now at facility alternatives, something that involves more remodeling than new construction, since new construction doesn't seem to be where this district is headed at this time," said School Board Member Rick Ellsworth, who sits on the Building and Grounds Committee.

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"Everything is tentative right now," he added.

Architect Tim Zerr of Fargo is working on the plans, and the resulting building bond could be on the ballot in the general election Nov. 4.

Plans are very preliminary, but the high school would be renovated in those portions that were built in 1960 or sooner. The building would be designed for grades 5 through 12.

That would allow grades pre-kindergarten through 4 to be housed in the elementary school in Audubon without use of that portion of the building that dates back to 1922.

The district is contemplating some work at the elementary school, and critical needs include improving the heating and ventilation systems, according to minutes from the Building and Grounds Committee meeting March 4.

"Other improvements would be planned, but the improvements would fall short of total renovation," according to the minutes. "The extent of work would be contingent upon the amount of work permitted without having to become totally code-compliant in the building."

LP-A Superintendent Dale Hogie said he hopes to meet with John Ryberg, who oversees school facilities for the Minnesota Department of Education, to get some questions answered, since he was busy with a number of referendums across the state prior to the last LP-A vote.

"We're hoping that if we get to him earlier this year, we might get a little more personal, hands-on help from him," Ellsworth said.

Questions for Ryberg would be:

-- What is needed to justify renovation that exceeds 60 percent of new construction cost?

-- The current high school site is about 13.3 acres. Farmland exists to the west. Would a total of 27 acres be need to be acquired to obtain state approval?

-- How much and what type of work can be done at the elementary school without having to bring the whole structure up to code?

-- How much planning and design work must be finished before a meeting is set to obtain initial feedback and recommendations from the state?

-- Will Ryberg come to LP-A to meet with the Building and Grounds Committee?

-- Will Ryberg respond in writing to a few specific community concerns?

"Many community members do not accept the district's interpretation of state guidelines related to repair and renovation. We (school officials) tell them that repair-only is not an option. We also tell them that renovation that costs more than 60 percent of new construction needs rationale justification."

The district would like to "find some solutions that will apparently cost the district less money," Hogie said.

If Ryberg -- who essentially has review and approval power over school building projects -- says the remodeling option is a dead end, the district will forget it and move on to other plans, Hogie said.

On Monday the board also discussed ways to improve community relations, and is considering contracting with communications specialist Linda Schroeder, of Schroeder Communications and Program Management Services, to assist with any new building bond referendum.

"It's not what she can do for us as a board, it's what she can do for the community," said School Board Member Jeff Swetland. "She doesn't just work for one side -- she gets the truth out to the whole community."

In other action, the board: n Approved the 2008-09 school calendar. The first day of classes will be Sept. 2 and the last day of classes will be May 27. Thanksgiving break will be Nov. 26-30, winter break will be Dec. 24-Jan. 4, and spring break will be April 10-13.

-- Approved a three-year contract extension for Superintendent Hogie, with 2 percent annual salary increases.

With insurance and retirement benefits, his compensation will increase by 2.57 percent the first year, 2.27 percent the second year and 2.27 percent the third year.

He will receive $97,500 in 2008-09, $99,450 in 2009-10, and $101,450 in 2010-11.

"We tried to make it equitable to (percentage increases seen by) support personnel and union contracts, said School Board member Dale Binde.

-- Watched a technical presentation by sixth-graders, under the supervision of Mary Regelstad, who created multi-media projects on school computers.

-- Watched presentations by three groups of FCCLA state qualifiers.

-- Set May 7 as LP-A's Day of Caring.

-- Approved a 1-2 year leave of absence for elementary music instructor Lori Paakh, who will pursue a master's degree in music.

-- Agreed to allow suitable corporate and business sponsorship for school activities.

-- Approved a Cultural Collaborative Budget for fiscal year 2009 of about $52,000, down about $2,000 from this fiscal year.

The state will provide all but about $16,000 of the 2009 budget, as part of a funding system that has been financially beneficial to the district, Hogie said.

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