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No new school? DL School District eyeing bond vote to fix existing facilities

Architect Brian Berg outlined some of the Detroit Lakes School District's most urgent facility needs during a public forum held Wednesday night at the Detroit Lakes High School Media Center. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

A forum was held Wednesday night at Detroit Lakes High School to give community members an opportunity to interact with architects hired by the school district to assess its facility needs, with an eye toward a November bond referendum vote.

No new school building is being proposed this time around, says Brian Berg of the Fargo-based Zerr-Berg Architects — though they aren't completely ruling it out if public opinion shifts in that direction, he added.

About 30 people showed up for Wednesday night's forum, where Berg outlined four key priorities that must be addressed by the project:

• To accommodate future growth;

• To enhance building security at all school facilities;

• To incorporate 21st century learning models and techniques;

• To lower district costs by using operationally efficient designs.

He also informed the group that Zerr-Berg would be taking a three-phase approach toward helping the district solidify its facility needs and get a bond referendum on the general election ballot in November.

The first phase, in which Wednesday's forum was included, is what Berg referred to as the "information gathering" phase. He added that Zerr-Berg had already held meetings with district administrators, school board, faculty and staff, and would be meeting with students as well.

"Student engagement is a step that often gets missed," Berg said, noting that the students who actually attend classes in the facilities being examined can have unique insights into what the needs are in those buildings.

The next step will be to develop a list of options for consideration, along with anticipated costs for each.

"We'll have those by the end of May," Berg said, adding, "We know once June hits it's harder to get people to participate (in forums like this). We'll take the summer to do analysis, generate ideas and work with the (school) board to narrow down those options."

He said that they would have a definite plan of action "dialled in" by the end of June, and July would be spent refining that proposal for review by the Minnesota Department of Education. The proposal would be submitted to the state for review and comment in August, and the third phase, public review and comment on the final proposal, would take place in September and October, leading up to the Nov. 6 election.

About a half dozen people attending the meeting shared their concerns about items that need to be addressed. Those included increased space at the high school for vocational education; eliminating the temporary classroom structures at Rossman Elementary, creating more gym space at all school buildings, refurbishing the high school pool, better classroom security for all grade levels, and more flexible learning and work spaces.

There was also some discussion given to getting creative with financing some of the specific facility needs of the district — such as refurbishing the pool or bringing the wrestling facilities (currently housed in a separate building) into the high school — and looking into public/private partnerships to make that happen.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 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