Though the end of the school year is still a couple of weeks away, groundwork is already being laid for the first phase of the school remodeling and construction project approved by Detroit Lakes voters in November, even as school board members are finalizing bid packages and alternates for the projected $53 million project.

"The pre-construction site preparation work at Rossman Elementary has started, but it's mostly setting the stage for work to begin when school's out," says Brian Berg of Zerr Berg Architects. "Things will begin to happen very quickly once the kids are gone for the summer."

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Berg and Dan Kliest of Gertz Construction were at the Detroit Lakes School Board's Monday night work session to go over some items included in bid packages for construction at all four building sites that could be removed if bids from contractors come in higher than projected.

The board is combing through details of projects at Rossman Elementary, the Middle School, Roosevelt Elementary and the High School - which are in various stages of bidding and construction - in an attempt to stay under budget despite the challenges of a bullish spring construction market.

"The market is a fickle thing, and it certainly is right now," said Berg, adding that there was a high volume of projects out for bids to contractors in the area this spring.

"When there's a lot of work available for bidding, bids tend to be higher," Berg said on Tuesday.

In fact, he informed the board on Monday that it might be a good idea to hold off on opening bids for the high school until late this fall, as "it could have a tremendous impact on the bidding." Construction on the high school site, which accounts for roughly half of the overall budget, isn't slated to begin until next summer.

Contracts have already been awarded for improvements at Rossman and the middle school. The board voted at a special meeting on April 18 to approve $5,481,473 in contracts for the middle school, and another $8,226,479 for projects at Rossman, which account for about 25 percent of the overall project.

Ground work has begun at Rossman Elementary where new kindergarten rooms will go. Bids for Roosevelt projects will be opened at the end of the month.

Bids for the first group of improvements at the Roosevelt Elementary site, meanwhile, are scheduled to be opened May 30.

Also at Monday's work session, the board discussed final changes to the 2018-19 school calendar, did a brief review of the preliminary budget for 2019-2020, and went over proposals for hiring a consultant to help them with a new strategic plan. The district's strategic plan hasn't been updated since 2008, according to Superintendent Doug Froke.

The school board will meet for its regular session on Monday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m.