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Clock ticking on old LP-A school

Though the administration and school board of Lake Park-Audubon Schools have not given up on pursuing the sale of the old high school building in Lake Park, they have put a deadline on it.

At the regular meeting of the LP-A School Board on Monday, the board members passed a motion to turn off the utilities in the building on Dec. 16 — the date when the district’s current insurance policy on the structure runs out.

“We have had two prior offers (for purchase of the structure),” said LP-A Schools Superintendent Dale Hogie. “Both of them were contingent upon establishing an agreement to share the facility’s use and cost, with the City of Lake Park.

“Neither party could come to an agreement with the city, so they both withdrew their offers.”

While these sale agreements were in effect, however, the school district continued to pay for utilities, maintenance, repair and insurance on the structure.

“We spent nearly $70,000 on that building last year,” Hogie said.

The current insurance policy, which is for a building that is actively maintained, with utilities still functioning, will run out on Dec. 16.

“We plan to heat and maintain the building through the 16th (of December),” Hogie said. “Our realtor is working to negotiate an alternative purchase price, or possibly a shared demolition cost for the portion of the building that would not be used…he says he’s been in contact with some people who have expressed an interest, but we don’t have any new offers.”

After Dec. 16, the board will move forward with plans to seek bids for full demolition of the structure, Hogie said.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the board “spent a great deal of time talking about elementary enrollment, including preschool numbers, and our need for additional classrooms” in the Audubon elementary building, Hogie said.

“We are moving forward with plans for an Early Learning Center,” Hogie said. “We are in the early stages of design for (a facility) that would house our kindergarten, Head Start, ECFE and Learning Ladder classes.”

The need for such a facility is imminent, he added. “Currently, we have three sections in each grade, K-3, and two sections each in grades 4-6. With our current preschool numbers, we would expect to be moving toward three sections in grades 4, 5 and 6 also.”

Space is already limited in the Audubon facility, Hogie noted: Elementary band and choir teachers are sharing space for classes, which has created some scheduling difficulties, and space for special education instruction is also at a premium.

“Our preschool census is projecting continued growth,” Hogie said — and it won’t take long before enrollment exceeds the current available space.

If everything moves according to plan, a referendum vote on bond financing for the Early Learning Center “could be on the ballot as early as next May,” Hogie said.

If that happens, and the referendum is approved, the new facility could be ready in time to meet the district’s projected enrollment needs, he added.

In other business Monday, the board approved the necessary expenditures for fencing, excavation and preparation of two new softball fields at the current high school site, “in anticipation of spring 2014 competition,” 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