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DL school board expected to vote on proposed $49 million building bond referendum at Aug. 13 meeting

One of the proposed improvements at Detroit Lakes High School would be the expansion of Ralph Anderson Gymnasium, possibly to include an elevated track. Emily Driscoll / Tribune1 / 3
Over half of the proposed building bond referendum budget is slated to go to improvements at Detroit Lakes High School. Emily Driscoll / Tribune2 / 3
Another improvement at Detroit Lakes High School that is being proposed as part of a projected $49 million building bond referendum is a new entrance and expansion of the commons and administrative offices. Emily Driscoll / Tribune3 / 3

The Detroit Lakes School Board is expected to reach a decision at its Aug. 13 meeting on whether to proceed with a proposed $49 million building bond referendum as part of the November general elections.

"If the board has the intention of putting the question (of the proposed building project) to the voters on Nov. 6, they have to take action calling for a referendum at their August meeting," said Detroit Lakes School Superintendent Doug Froke on Thursday.

The board reviewed each of the proposed improvements on the $49.9 million list at the district's four main facilities — the high school, middle school and both Rossman and Roosevelt elementary buildings — with the project's lead architect, Brian Berg, during a Monday work session.

Based on discussion at Monday's meeting, It is likely that the school board will vote to put the building bond referendum to the vote in November — however, Froke noted, the list of improvements to be included in the referendum vote had not yet been set in stone.

"Monday's meeting was a work session," he emphasized. "No official action was taken. We are still seeking input from the public, and will be accepting feedback up until the Aug. 13 meeting, when a decision is likely to be made."

Froke added that he, along with the school board members, would be willing to sit down and talk with anyone who wants to give any one of them a call in the next couple of weeks.

"We are still very interested in hearing what folks have to say about any of the items on the list (of proposed improvements), or any other ideas they might have," he said.

While board members have expressed a desire to scale back the costs to lower the overall price tag as much as possible, Zerr Berg lead architect Brian Berg emphasized at Monday's meeting that doing so would have a significant impact on the project's objectives and the school board's wish list.

Berg said, "There isn't anybody that's gonna be left out in the cold saying, 'what about us, what are you gonna do for us?'" The list of projects included in the referendum are meant to benefit all four of the district's current academic facilities — Detroit Lakes High School, Roosevelt and Rossman Elementary, and the Detroit Lakes Middle School.

Under the current proposal, Rossman Elementary would receive just over $8 million in improvements, including both renovations and expansion of its classroom, office and gymnasium space; Roosevelt Elementary would get just under $9 million in upgrades, including both renovations and additional gym and office space; while the middle school would get a $5.5 million facelift, including mainly renovation of its existing classroom and media center spaces as well as building systems and infrastructure improvements.

The most significant improvements would occur at the high school, however, with nearly $27.4 million slated to be put into expansion of its gymnasium, classroom, office and commons spaces.

At Monday's meeting, board members addressed the concerns voiced by community members regarding the proposed referendum, like how some believed certain portions of the slated improvements were unnecessary: For instance, they have received some negative feedback about expanding the high school gym.

"Let's get kids home from practice by 6:30 rather than 8," David Langworthy said, voicing his reasons for supporting the gym expansion, which would allow for larger class sizes as well as increased space for activities taking place before, during and after school.

"We have information to back every decision we're making," he added.