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DL schools wind down big projects, school board takes the tour

Superintendent doug froke (left) and school board member Brenda Muckenhirn take a look at progress made at the new Middle School parking lot.

School may have been out for the summer, but the halls have not been totally quiet.

The Detroit Lakes School Board recently took a tour of all four public school buildings to see what kind of summer projects have been accomplished.

"We're doing this so that we know what we're doing with our funding and that we're taking care of our staff and students," said the school board's vice chair, Dr. Tom Seaworth. "That way we can see if this is the best way to spend our district's tax dollars and make sure that things are getting done the way they were explained to us."

Roughly $430,000 of those tax dollars were spent on projects throughout the district's buildings this summer, with the bulk of it being at the Middle School and Roosevelt Elementary.

The new parking lot is the most obvious one, as the district spent $175,000 to clear out, expand and lay asphalt on a 132-space staff parking lot at the Middle School.

The drop off-pick up area on the north side of Roosevelt has been blocked off to become staff parking as well.

The south side of Roosevelt and the Middle School is now split down the middle with wooden posts and ropes, with busses now taking the right lane and parents taking the left lane.

The parking lot parents drive into is also now solely for them and other visitors.

"This school wasn't designed for this many teachers to be parking and this many parents to be picking up and dropping off," said School Board President David Langworthy,

"All the kids use to ride the bus. There wasn't a parking issue here before, but we need to change with the times."

The second big chunk of money went to replace the rubber surface of the Middle School/Roosevelt roofs, coming in at $65,000.

The commons area of the Middle School was painted and its stage resurfaced.

Even more noticeable, though, is a shift in fifth grade classes.

Three have been moved from Roosevelt to the Middle School, to rooms that were previously computer labs.

Detroit Lakes Schools Superintendent Doug Froke says the fifth grade classroom shift was in response to overcrowding at Roosevelt.

"It's a growth issue; we simply didn't have room," said Froke, who added that when Roosevelt was built, it wasn't built for the roughly 700 students it houses now.

The computers that used to sit in the new fifth grade classes were moved to the media room, which was expanded.

A wall was knocked down between two small storage rooms next to the Middle School media room and it was transformed into an additional computer lab.

The old, outdated dark room that was once used for developing film in photography classes was then turned into a storage space.

Roosevelt also saw a landscaping project finished, some remodeled bathrooms and some new floors.

Roosevelt, the Middle School, the High School and Rossman all have a new fire alarm system after the district had constant trouble with the old one, according to supervisor of operations for the district, Ben Weekley.

That was another $75,000 project.

Rossman also saw a new air conditioning unit installed in its server room in an effort to protect the computer servers from overheating, as well as a $25,000 project out front.

The old landscaping was wiped out and the sidewalk next to the bus drop off expanded.

"So now kids can stand back away from the curb and the buses, so it's definitely safer for them," said Weekley.

A new, brick circle seating addition was also added in the front where teachers can now hold outdoor classes at Rossman.

Other than the fire alarm system, not much else was done at the High School, other than a few small projects.

"We gave the High School some attention last year, so this year we concentrated on the other buildings," said the business manager for the district, Ted Heisserer.

School Board members agreed that for the most part, the completed projects did hold up to their plans and expectations for the school, and their buildings tour gave them more food for thought.

"We need to plan for five years down the road when we are expecting a very large kindergarten class, and how do we do that during hard economic times?" asked Seaworth,

"We need more space, but what's the best way to do it? Part of this is preparing for the future."