A two-story addition to DL High School?
About halfway through Wednesday night's meeting on proposed upgrades to Detroit Lakes' public school facilities, there was a decided shift in mood among the 50 or so people gathered in the M State conference center.
About halfway through Wednesday night’s meeting on proposed upgrades to Detroit Lakes’ public school facilities, there was a decided shift in mood among the 50 or so people gathered in the M State conference center.
For the first time, a palpable sense of excitement could be felt - a mood shift that was mentioned by several Detroit Lakes School Board members following the meeting.
The reason for the mood shift was a new option for school improvements that was presented during the meeting - a proposal so new that the board hadn’t yet had an opportunity to do much more than a cursory review of the specs.
“This is very, very preliminary,” stressed architect Chris Gibbs of DLR Group, as he urged those present to keep in mind that the cost projections were still quite speculative.
The proposal presented at Wednesday’s meeting was to build a new, two-story academic wing onto the current Detroit Lakes High School, and move the district’s 7th and 8th grade students into a renovated area that was separated from the rest of the high school, on the opposite side of the new academic wing.
Previously, discussions had centered on building either a new high school or middle school on an open piece of property on Tower Road that the district had acquired with this purpose in mind.
Other options included upgrading the current high school, middle school and both elementary schools (Rossman and Roosevelt), while expanding the existing elementary facilities to bring their capacity up to 750 students each.
The possibility of building an entirely new elementary building at the Rossman site was also discussed, as was the possibility of demolishing the Lincoln Education Center and constructing a new preschool and kindergarten center there.
The price tag for each of the six prior options ranged from $45 million for the preschool-kindergarten center to $75 million for a new high school.
The rough estimate for the new proposal presented on Tuesday was $56 million, or about halfway between the low and high proposals. With about 400 middle school students relocated to the new addition, that would free up considerable space in the existing middle school building for easing the district’s critical need for additional elementary classroom space.
Superintendent Doug Froke also noted that each of the proposals on the table included about $4.5 million in needed capital improvements to the Roosevelt and Middle School facilities - such as finding a permanent solution to the parking woes at the two adjacent facilities, which have plagued the district for a couple of years now.
Several people at the meeting expressed their preferences for different options, and the pros and cons of each were debated at length.
But after the new proposal for the middle school addition was presented, Board Chair Ladd Lyngaas asked for a show of hands to see how many were in favor of pursuing this option, and it appeared that every person in the room raised their hand.
“It’s nice to see some excitement about an option (for construction),” commented board member Brenda Muckenhirn.
Though there did appear to be considerable momentum behind the new proposal, the board still decided to keep two of the other six options on the table: Renovation of the existing facilities, and construction of a new high school.
The 30-some members of the public who were present at Wednesday’s meeting were tasked with going out into the community and soliciting input on the three proposals from their friends and colleagues.
Another facilities meeting will be scheduled in October, to attempt to hammer out an option that will not only meet the district’s need for additional classroom and gym space, but also meet with support from voters.
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes .