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Area Learning Center to move

The Detroit Lakes Area Learning Center will have a new home in the fall of 2015.

After being housed on the third floor of the Historic Holmes Theatre since it opened in 2002, the ALC will be relocated to the local campus of Minnesota State Community & Technical College at the end of the 2014-15 school year.

At a special session Thursday evening, the Detroit Lakes Board of Education approved a five-year lease with M State that will include space for the ALC, Recovery School and Teen Age Parents in Parenting (TAPP) programs.

To accommodate these programs, the district will lease approximately 7,360 square feet of space from M State, for which the college will charge a facility use fee of $66,231 per year (or $9 per square foot). This fee will be paid on a quarterly basis.

Also at Thursday’s special meeting, the board approved some final revisions to the 2013-14 budget, as well as a preliminary budget for 2014-15 that includes $34.4 million in revenues, and $35.1 million in expenditures.

Most of the meeting, however, was devoted to a discussion on how the board wants to proceed with plans for a possible new building project to meet its burgeoning need for space at the elementary level.

Specifically, the board is hoping to avoid a repeat of last November’s failed $59 million bond referendum.

With that in mind, the board had asked principal architect Christopher Gibbs from DLR Group and Stephen Plantenberg, senior project manager from R.A. Morton Construction Managers, to be present at the meeting to review some preliminary cost estimates for various building options.

Following a work session earlier this spring, the board had asked them to come up with cost projections for six possible options, though as Superintendent Doug Froke pointed out, both the options and figures presented are very preliminary and were only intended to be a starting point for discussion.

The options presented included everything from using the existing facilities, with remodeling and building additions to accommodate the additional space needs, to building completely new facilities for Rossman Elementary, as well as a new middle school or a new high school.

The cost projections presented by Gibbs and Plantenberg ranged from approximately $27 million for utilizing the existing facilities, to nearly $76 million for building a new high school.

There was also an option presented for placing the district’s pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs at the Lincoln Education Center site, but the board indicated during discussion that this would be the least palatable solution.

Gibbs pointedly asked the question whether the present Lincoln Education Center building was worth salvaging for the future. “I say no,” he added, but pointed out that it might be possible to build a new pre-kindergarten and kindergarten facility there.

Board member Dr. Tom Seaworth bluntly said, “To me it’s a foregone conclusion that it’s not worth spending a lot of time (looking at) Lincoln.”

But as Froke noted, the district does already own the land that the building sits on, so it should at least be a part of the discussion.

“Can we still look at land options by Rossman?” asked board member Brenda Muckenhirn, referencing the possibility of acquiring additional land by the elementary building for the purpose of building an addition — or a new, larger facility.

Both Seaworth and board chairman Ladd Lyngaas answered “yes” to that question, indicating that it was one option that was still very much on the table.

Ultimately, the evening’s discussion focused less on which options to consider, and more on how the board wanted to engage the community in the project and build support for whichever option was ultimately chosen.

Board member Jackie Buboltz pointed out that one of the things learned from public “listening sessions” held in the wake of last fall’s failed referendum was that the community felt “we didn’t provide the ‘why’” in the information about the referendum that was presented to the public.

“I think it would be valuable to show the community some different options and get some input on what they would support.”

A consensus was reached that the board would come up with a list and extend invitations to about 30 people in the community to be a part of a “core group” that would meet to review all possible options for the project and come up with about three final possibilities to present to the public.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

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