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LP-A school construction to start soon

The pre-kindergarten through sixth grade elementary school in Audubon is getting ready for construction: Bids will be awarded Sept. 13 on the first phase of a $3 million project that involves new construction and renovation of the existing school.

The bid opening for the "envelope" or outer portion of the project, including masonry walls, mechanical work and site development, will be at a special school board meeting Sept. 13.

The bid opening for interior work, including specific finishes, furniture, fixtures and similar items will take place three or four weeks later, according to Superintendent Dale Hogie.

The project has really taken shape since the passage of the building bond referendum, thanks to input from teachers and staff, Hogie said.

The building will include five new classrooms, rather than the four originally planned, and they will be built before anything else is done at the school, Hogie said.

When the project is finished, all but one classroom will have natural light through large windows, said Board Chair Vicky Grondahl.

With a bumper crop of kindergarteners expected (nearly 60 have already registered) the extra room will be used as a "flex room" to provide space for another section as the "bubble" class moves up the pipeline, said High School Principal Kevin Ricke.

Other new construction that was not originally planned will be located near the new entrance and includes the Early Childhood Family Education office, a reception area and teacher work room.

Thanks to savings in other areas of renovation, the total cost of the project will not increase with the extra space.

That's also true of three rooftop ventilators that will provide air conditioning in the summer for the new classrooms, maintenance areas and offices.

While the new construction is expected to begin later in September, renovation work involving the interior of the existing school should start in December or January and is expected to be completed before school ends in the spring.

Elementary Principal Sam Skaaland said the portion of the grade school that was built in 1922 will be torn down in June to make way for the new entryway and parking.

But until then, that oldest part of the school will be used extensively as temporary space during construction in other portions of the school.

School officials are hoping for a good deal, and Hogie said vendors appear to be hungry for sales and construction contractors are still looking for work, which should translate into lower bids.

"That will be a really interesting meeting on (Sept.) 13th to see how this is all going to pan out financially for us," said School Board Member Rick Ellsworth.

The district is offering several alternative bids that can be accepted if the budget allows.

One would involve floor covering so a tile gym floor is not as slippery, for example.

Another would provide new restroom stools and sinks.

"If you think of everything we're getting for less than $3 million -- it's going to make a huge difference to our elementary school," Hogie said.

The board also discussed site plans for the new high school, which will be located in a corner -- rather than the center -- of the 53-acre-plot donated by Loren Jetvig. That will provide more room for expansion if needed and for sports fields.

The Catholic church in Lake Park has donated a piece of land to allow a curved street to link up to the school from the east, and Hogie said he anticipates no problems with Highway 10 access for the new school on the south.