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Juggling schools in DL

A new concessions area in the high school is the most noticeable change over the summer. School board members and district leaders got a first- hand look at the space that will now be run by the food service, as more meal-like options will be on the table during sporting events this year. Photo by - Paula Quam1 / 2
Members of ATS&R Architectural firm also toured the facilities. Dan Moll of ATS&R and Supervisor of Operations Ben Weekly discussed the deteriorating conditions of the Middle School building exterior Monday night. Photo by - Paula Quam2 / 2

Monday night proved to be packed full of productivity for members of the Detroit Lakes School Board as they not only toured the schools to check on changes and updates, but also began to really tackle the looming question: to build or not to build?

The tour

Board members hopped from one facility to the next, getting a first-hand look at the changes that have happened over the summer.

Probably the most noticeable is the new concession stand that is now carved into the hallway near the high school gymnasium.

Complete with cooking equipment and a full food prep area, concessions can certainly now go far beyond candy bars and popcorn.

"When we have camps and weekend wrestling tournaments and things like that, they can serve pretty much a full menu through here now," said Ben Weekly, supervisor of operations for the district. "The food service will oversee the operations of the kitchen so people can get fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy..."

Summer projects also included some remodeling of high school bathrooms, switching around a few industrial arts rooms, converting two sparsely used spaces in the middle school into fifth grade classrooms and some additional landscaping at Rossman Elementary.

A big job

The school board, along with school administration, now has the large responsibility of sifting through the complexities of the district's options of addressing space and efficiency issues.

Representatives from ATS&R Architectural firm presented the board with 11 options, everything from simply jockeying students around in existing buildings to building a brand new high school at a different site.

In between those options are other, more moderate ideas.

Although the board has expressed interest in bringing the community in for the real decision-making, it did eliminate five of the 11 options presented, mostly due to the fact that they were labeled "short term fixes."

Ideas eliminated:

• Grouping all kindergarteners at the Lincoln Education Center (eliminated because of traffic and congestion concerns around the Lincoln Ed area)

• Grouping kindergarteners at Rossman Elementary, while adding on to the 60-year-old building to make room (eliminated in part because of the aging building and complications and expense of doing new construction with an old facility)

• Building a new elementary school at the Roosevelt site for grades 1-5 while grouping kindergarteners and pre-K at Rossman (eliminated because it left unused excess space in the building).

• Adding onto Roosevelt (eliminated because of its short term effectiveness)

• Putting all elementary students in the Roosevelt/Middle School buildings and constructing a new addition at the high school for the middle school students. (eliminated in part because it would impact the much-used practice fields and parking space).

"We don't want to just do something for the here and now; we want to create a plan that works into the future 20, 30 years down the road," said Board President Tom Seaworth.

"Short term" was defined as five years or less, so while the eliminated options were considered, so were the problems that would likely arise in a few years.

"And if you're doing any kind of building construction, you don't want to go back every three to five years doing another project because people will say to you, 'why so soon? What were you thinking? Why come back to us so soon?'" said Dan Moll of ATS&R, who also gave very rough cost estimates for each remaining option, which ranged from $16.2 million to $45 million.

From here, the board will now put together a list of approximately 20-30 key community leaders who they will invite to a meeting Sept. 5.,

The architectural firm will then present the remaining six viable options for feedback and suggestions, including firming up a date to shoot for in terms of "bring the idea to the voters."