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LP-A Early Learning Center plans unveiled

This drawing of the proposed Early Learning Center addition at Lake Park-Audubon Elementary School in Audubon was prepared by Zerr-Berg Architects for Tuesday night's LP-A School Board meeting. It shows the layout of the proposed addition, which would house kindergarten, Early Childhood and Head Start classrooms. It would be located north of the existing building. SUBMITTED GRAPHIC

The preliminary plans for a proposed 22,000 square foot Early Learning Center addition at Lake Park-Audubon Elementary School were unveiled at Tuesday night's LP-A School Board meeting in Lake Park.

With all seven board members on hand for the ensuing discussion, Brian Berg of Zerr-Berg Architects rolled out plans that included not only a 22,740 square foot addition to the north of the existing elementary building, but renovation of 5,350 square feet of space inside the current facility. In addition, a second playground would be added, and the current elementary playground would be relocated to the opposite side of the building.

The new playground would only serve students in the early learning classrooms, Berg said, while the relocated elementary playground would serve students in grades 1-6.

"The new playground could accommodate two classrooms at a time," he added.

A total of four kindergarten and five Early Childhood classrooms would be built, along with a Head Start classroom. The classrooms would be constructed in pairs, with shared toilet and storage facilities for each pair of rooms.

Because of current guidelines set by the Minnesota Department of Education, the kindergarten rooms would each include 1,200 square feet of space, while the Early Childhood and Head Start classrooms would be 1,100 square feet each, Berg said.

The size of the classrooms would mean that each would have to be equipped with two exits; the secondary exit would be locked and used only in case of emergencies, he added.

The addition would also include an administrative office and lobby area, commons and activity area, mechanical room and storage.

"This addition would be fairly autonomous," Berg said — meaning that its mechanical systems for heat, water, etc., would be separate from the elementary building.

The estimated price tag for the entire project would be about $4.5 million, Berg noted.

Plans for the Early Learning Center have been on the board's radar since last spring, when projected enrollment numbers in the district's early childhood, preschool and K-6 education programs indicated that available classroom space in the Audubon elementary building would soon be severely limited.

Construction of the addition would also allow five classroom spaces in the existing elementary building to be freed up for other uses; though Superintendent Dale Hogie noted that the extra classrooms for grades 4-6 are not projected to be necessary until the 2015-16 school year, the need for additional elementary music and special education space is more immediate.

Hogie also said that the board would need to schedule a work session sometime in January to begin taking a more in-depth look at the Early Learning Center plans, and prepare them for submission to the state for review and comment — which is the next step in the process, Berg noted.

In other business Tuesday, the board set its final 2013, payable 2014 school district property tax levy at $2,461,026, which marks a $95,613 drop from last year, or a total decrease of about 3.74 percent.

In addition, Hogie informed the board that an "interested party" has stepped forward and begun to negotiate in earnest for the possible purchase of the old high school building in Lake Park. For this reason, the district has opted not to move forward with plans to shut down heat, water and electricity at the site.

"We're attempting to save the integrity of the building," Hogie said.

He added that he was in the process of setting up a closed negotiation session between the board and those interested in making the purchase; Becker County Economic Development Coordinator Guy Fischer has also begun working with the district's realtor, Steve Larson, on accessing potential funding sources for developing the site as a senior housing facility, Hogie said.

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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