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DL readies 'The Pit' for classes

"The Pit," a storage area at Roosevelt Elementary in Detroit Lakes, will vanish and turn into classrooms after the School Board accepted a bid on Thursday from Gast Construction in Fargo.

The School Board meeting was pushed to Thursday after it was postponed on Monday due to the icy road conditions.

The approved bid includes building four large classrooms, a medium-sized classroom, two small classrooms for small-group settings, restrooms and custodial facilities at the school that has faced space issues.

The total cost of the bid, which includes construction, architect fees, communications wiring for phone, Internet and TV, and a 10 percent contingency fund is slated to cost the district $526,540.

Funding will come from the Operating Capital Fund and the district's reserves. The hit to the budget won't come at once and will span this current school year and the next budget year.

Work on the projected is expected to begin on March 1 and be completed by July 24.

A total of 11 bids came in for the project, with Gast Construction beating the second-cheapest bid by nearly $12,000.

Gast Construction has been notified of some limitations it has to face to limit noise, especially during standardized testing periods.

"We're going to tell them that there are some operations that they have to do after hours," said district business manager Ted Heisserer. "The nice thing about that area is that it there is a good access area outside directly into it."

As for school funding issues that are coming into play, Superintendent Doug Froke is waiting to see how the federal stimulus plays out in Congress and also how the state reacts to that before determining how the district will face the next school year revenue-wise.

"The state government is sitting around waiting for the federal government to get this piece down," Froke said.

It's anticipated that President Obama will have a stimulus bill to sign into law by Monday if everything falls into place.

"As that rolls out, the train will start coming through onto state government and local governments as well," Froke said.

Froke said he doesn't know if schools will see any direct money, or how that will be handled. There is a concern that money for school construction may not flow directly in the district's coffers, but it may have to seek competitive grants from the state.

"It sounds like school construction is back into play," Froke said. "That could bode very well for us."

"If they go the House side, we saw the individual amounts," Froke said. "If they go the Senate side, the money will go to the states."

The governor's office is already setting up contact people for funding projects, according to an e-mail Froke received from Gov. Tim Pawlenty's office.

"Does that mean then that the state government knows something that it will be disseminated out to the states?" Froke said. "I don't know."

As the district waits to see how the stimulus plays out, Froke will delay proposing any new cost containment measures to the School Board until next month at the earliest.

"We should know something federally next week, which will help move our process along," Froke said. "I guess in March, we will talk about cost-containment measures, if there are any."