DL school facility needs beginning to take shape
Though the Detroit Lakes School Board hasn't yet made any decisions regarding a possible November referendum vote for school facilities improvements, the form and scope of improvements needed is beginning to take shape.
At a community engagement meeting held Wednesday night in the media center at Rossman Elementary School, Brian Berg of Zerr Berg Architects outlined four key areas of local school facility improvements that need to be addressed: Enrollment growth; building security; updating classrooms and commons areas to meet 21st century learning needs (such as flexible work spaces for large collaborative projects and small groups and hands-on learning activities); and operational efficiency, which means maximizing space usage and functionality in all school district buildings, as well as making the existing buildings as energy efficient as possible.
"This is the fifth of eight scheduled (public input) meetings," Berg said. "I guarantee there will be more before we're done."
Though Zerr Berg Architects is still "knee deep" in the information gathering phase of the project, he added, he and his team have begun to identify the needs of all four of the district's K-12 facilities, as well as the school administration building and Lincoln Education Center (which houses the district's community education and early childhood programming).
At Rossman Elementary, a minimum of eight new classrooms are needed — including replacement of the four portable, or "temporary" classrooms that have outlived their intended use. In addition, a full-size gymnasium, collaborative learning space and small group rooms are needed, along with a staff lounge and entry/security improvements.
Berg said that one of the easiest ways to address the need for collaborative learning space would be to enclose the outdoor courtyard in the middle of the existing facilities, as it is not currently being used as it should be.
Roosevelt Elementary School also needs additional gymnasium and collaborative learning space, as well as up to 10 new classrooms, a new music room, small group space and a staff lounge.
Berg noted that six of the 10 new classrooms would be used to put the fifth-graders currently housed at Detroit Lakes Middle School back into the elementary setting, allowing the middle school to become a true middle school, for grades 6-8 only. The other four classrooms would be to accommodate future growth, he added.
Though there would not be much need for additional space at the middle school — once the fifth-graders were moved out — the existing space would need to be reconfigured, Berg said.
"This building was built as a junior high, not a middle school," he explained, noting that there was a need for flexible, multi-use spaces as well as a centralized collaborative learning area and a "wellness" area, for physical education activities outside of the gymnasium setting.
At the high school, Berg said, there would be a minimum of six new classrooms needed, to accommodate a "bubble" of larger-size classes that will be transitioning from the middle school into the high school over the next several years.
There is also a need for flexible learning space to accommodate the district's shift to a new "academy model" for active learning — learning by doing and collaborating—which according to current studies will result in much better retention of information and knowledge, Berg said.
Other needs at the high school include enlarging a "severely undersized" commons area, and alleviating "extreme congestion" in certain high traffic areas of the building.
Also discussed at Wednesday's meeting was what the school board intends to do with the large tract of land on Tower Road that the district purchased several years ago, with the intent of building a new school building there.
"That land has not been sold," said board member Amy Erickson, who was in attendance at the meeting. "There are no plans for it at this point ... for the time being we are just going to hold onto it."
"It's a valuable piece of land," Berg said, "and it's only going to go up in value."
Three more community engagement meetings have been set over the course of the next couple of weeks. Two of those meetings are scheduled for this Wednesday, May 8, with the first taking place at 2 p.m. inside La Barista, located in the Washington Square Mall, and the second set for 6:30 p.m. in the commons area of the Detroit Lakes Middle School (500 Eleventh Ave.).
The third and final scheduled meeting — for now — is set to take place at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 15 in the gymnasium of the Lincoln Education Center (204 Willow St. E.). All of these meetings are open to the public.