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Lake Park-Audubon Superintendent Dale Hogie explains the renovations that will be done to the "old gym" in Audubon Elementary School starting next week. The stage will be lowered to floor level and walled off, with the new area being used for band practice. The floor will also be replaced with a multi-use gym floor surface.

LP-A: New and improved

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So far, construction on the $3.5 million renovation and expansion project at Lake Park-Audubon Elementary School in Audubon has proceeded with minimal disruption to students and staff.

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"It couldn't have gone any better as far as disruption (of classes)," said LP-A Superintendent Dale Hogie on Thursday. "The staff has been very accepting of the construction process."

The construction crews have also been very willing to work around class schedules and school activities.

"Most of the (existing) school has been left alone," Hogie said.

That is going to change a little bit on Monday -- at least for the next four weeks or so.

March 14 was the date set for the temporary closure of the school's south gymnasium, which includes a stage area that is scheduled to be closed off from the gym and remodeled into a fifth- and sixth-grade band practice room.

"The stage has served as our elementary band room and has been used as an instructional area for other small groups," Hogie said. "The stage will be dropped to floor level to eliminate the accessibility barrier, and the area will be enclosed so activities can take place simultaneously in the gym and in the enclosed band room."

Other work to be completed in this area will be the installation of plumbing for the sprinkler system. New flooring is also scheduled to be installed in the gymnasium, making the surface less slippery and more conducive to athletic activities, Hogie noted.

The gymnasium/stage renovation is scheduled for completion in early May -- just in time for the new band practice room to be put to use in preparations for the last concert of the season, Hogie added.

According to Hogie, the south gymnasium space is well-utilized by both elementary and high school students during the school year.

In the past, it has not only been the setting for elementary physical education classes, but also noon recess in the winter, and pre-season practices for high school baseball and golf teams.

This spring, however, alternative spaces will need to be found until the construction is completed.

Construction at the Audubon site started in late summer 2010, and has been progressing well, Hogie said.

"Interior masonry is complete, room dividers are in place in new and renovated areas, and interior walls are in place," he wrote in a Feb. 14 facility update report. "Our construction manager is working on schedules in an attempt to have some work completed ahead of initial projections."

In all, the renovation and expansion project includes 9,800 square feet of new construction, and 10,400 square feet of renovated space, Hogie said Thursday.

Some students in grades 4, 5 and 6 will be getting new classrooms --but even the existing classrooms are scheduled for some renovations, including a new heating and ventilation system.

There will be a new main entrance to the building, and the elementary principal, community education, social worker, speech and ECFE departments would all have their offices near the new entry area.

"Visitors tend to go to those places the most," Hogie explained, noting that those doors would be the only access point into the school throughout the school day -- the other doors will be locked while classes are in session.

The parent drop-off and school bus drop-off areas will also be located on different sides of the building, to enhance safety for both, he added.

A computer lab, with space for 25 computers, will also be located in the new addition.

The new mechanical area, which will house the heating system as well as custodial workspace and a shipment receiving area, is nearing completion.

Hogie noted that LP-A's custodial staff has had to endure more disruption in their work schedule than most.

"It's been a big challenge for Dan (Busche, maintenance and custodial supervisor for the district) and his staff to find spaces to work," Hogie said, noting that they've often had to temporarily store materials in hallways while construction was taking place in their former work areas.

There was also a brief disruption in the gymnasium and locker room areas early in the fall, when dust from the construction work areas temporarily got into the filtration system, but other than that, things have gone quite smoothly, Hogie said.

The school addition should essentially be completed by August, though teachers will be moving into their new classrooms as early as June -- at least those whose classrooms are currently housed in the original 1922 school building, which is scheduled for demolition as soon as classes are completed for the year.

It can't be soon enough for Busche, who said that he and his staff would be hard-pressed to complete all the maintenance work they need to do on the school in time for the teachers to move in for the start of the 2011-12 school year.

"Every day counts," he said, noting that he has already had the staff working on preparing the new addition as much as they could, so the teachers will be able to move into their new classrooms as soon as possible once classes are finished.

Busche said that he would be working closely with the construction crews at the Audubon site this summer, so his staff can get in and start cleaning and making repairs in the individual rooms as soon as construction work in those areas is completed.

"We have to get at least three rooms done each day -- cleaned, waxed floors, all the furniture put back in," he said. "Then, we do the maintenance -- the last two weeks we're just doing repairs and getting things ready to go.

"It's going to be a busy summer."

But Busche is also happy about all the changes that are coming.

"It's exciting to be getting something new here, getting some of the older equipment out and updated," he said.

For instance, the temperature and ventilation controls will all be computerized now, which will make it "much easier to fix the problems" when they come up, he said.

The renovations will also, hopefully, cut down on maintenance and heating costs in general, Hogie noted.

LP-A High School

Staff, students and community in Lake Park are equally excited about construction of the new $17 million high school for grades 7-12 that is slated to begin this spring.

When construction bids on the project came in significantly lower than expected, that allowed the district to consider a few options that had previously been excluded due to cost considerations, including:

• A 500 square foot expansion of the industrial technology shop space;

• Burnished block upgrades in the commons and classroom areas;

• Installation of seats with backs rather than bleachers in the theater/multipurpose room;

• Skylight installation in the locker bays and kitchen area, to increase natural lighting in those areas;

• New lights and irrigation system for the football field;

• Auto-sensor controls in the restrooms;

• Perimeter in-floor heating.

The savings in construction costs at the high school also allowed for a $50,000 upgrade to flooring in the south gymnasium of the elementary school, Hogie noted.

Construction at the high school site won't begin this spring until the snow has melted and the frost leaves the soil, allowing earthwork to start, Hogie said.

"We expect to bring the equipment in and start the earthwork in mid-April, weather permitting," he added.

However, the site is sufficiently elevated to avoid any possible flooding concerns, and the land was in active agricultural use up until this past fall, so there shouldn't be any issues with soil compaction, Hogie said.

"It's exciting -- there's a lot of optimism from the parents, staff and students," he added. "It's an exciting time for LP-A, with a lot of big changes coming."

"We're all excited to be going into a new building," Busche agreed.

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 14 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as obituaries. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 844-1454
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