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Celebration of schools, old and new -- groundbreaking for new LP-A high school, tours say goodbye to old Audubon school

It's been a week of celebration for Lake Park-Audubon Schools.

On Monday, a group of about 100 people gathered at the site of the new Lake Park-Audubon High School in Lake Park for a groundbreaking ceremony.

Then on Tuesday night, it was Audubon's turn, as LP-A Elementary School opened its doors for the first of two planned "dusty shoe tours" that gave residents a chance to see everything that had been done so far on the school's $3 million remodeling and expansion project.

"Today, we acknowledge the culmination of a quest that began over six years ago," said LP-A Superintendent Dale Hogie at the start of Monday's groundbreaking.

"The accomplishment we celebrate today took more attempts than most of us imagined -- six elections," he added, referring to the five failed bond referendum votes that preceded last year's victorious one.

Hogie acknowledged everyone who had stuck with the project through the years, from the "Vote Yes" committee members who steadfastly worked to distribute accurate information about the project prior to each election, to Loren Jetvig, the man who donated the land for the new school site.

He also thanked the mayors of Lake Park and Audubon, Keith Zachariason and Terry Johnson, for supporting the project before it became popular to do so.

For some, the intervening years brought more than just disappointment -- which Hogie acknowledged in his remarks, mentioning LP-A Board Chairwoman Vicky Grondahl as someone who "took a lot of heat" for continuing to support the push to build a new school through so many defeats at the polls.

After the ceremony, Grondahl acknowledged that she had been the subject of some very personal attacks, both in the media and elsewhere.

Now, however, Grondahl feels the tide of public opinion has swung the other way.

"I've heard a lot of positive comments, a lot of excitement (about the new school facilities)," she said.

That excitement extends not only toward construction of the new school in Lake Park, but also the improvements at the Audubon site, as Tuesday's school tours demonstrated.

"I think it's great, and it's necessary," said Mike Wammer, a former LP-A School Board member who served in that post for 20 years -- including the year when the 1977 school addition was built.

Wammer said there was also discussion back when the 1977 addition was built as to whether the 1922 school building should be demolished at that time.

The decision was made that it was in good enough shape to continue to house students -- which was the right choice at that time, because "it lasted another 25 years," he noted.

Brad Grant, who was a student at the Audubon school back in the 1960s, graduating in 1967, said that he was always in favor of the improvements there.

"These are good improvements -- well deserved, and well needed," he said after taking the tour.

"I was impressed," said 1972 Audubon High School graduate Dean Hendrickson, noting that the facilities looked "totally different" from when he attended school there.

"I was glad to see that they're going to redo the old gymnasium," he continued, noting that back when he was attending school there in the 1960s, "We thought that was a great gym, really state of the art."

Hogie noted Tuesday that the improvements at the elementary building are slated for "substantial completion" in time for classes to start in the fall.

However, if the weather doesn't cooperate, and there is a long stretch where construction can't move forward this summer, "that may be questionable," he added.

Demolition of the 1922 building is slated to begin promptly on June 6, and should take two to three weeks to finish, Hogie noted.

Once the demolition is complete, work can begin on constructing the new main entrance and administrative office spaces.

Construction at the site of the new high school is targeted for substantial completion by the fall of 2012, Hogie said.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454