DL school construction projects get early start thanks to pandemic closures

Construction crews were on site at Detroit Lakes High School Friday morning, June 5. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

With no classes, extracurricular activities or events happening at any of Detroit Lakes' four K-12 academic facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, construction crews were able to get started on the summer 2020 portion of the district's two-year, $60 million facilities improvement project more than three weeks ahead of schedule.

"We got going a little early, that's always good," said Dan Kleist, construction site manager for Gehrtz Construction of Fargo, the project's general contractor.

Kleist noted that the construction and remodeling projects at Rossman Elementary were already 80% complete, with only the revamping of the kitchen and commons area still left to do.

"We’re looking good there," he added. "We’re expecting work at the Rossman site to be 100% complete by the time school starts in the fall."

Meanwhile, over at the Roosevelt Elementary/Middle School site, construction is also moving along, with all but the new gym addition at Roosevelt and the commons/new stairwell at the middle school slated for completion yet this year.


The new gym at the south end will take a bit longer, Kleist said, with completion set for sometime in the spring of 2021. The "flip" of the kitchen and commons area at the middle school, which includes a new main staircase between the upper and lower levels, is slated for completion next summer as well.

Work has also begun on extensive remodeling and expansion improvements at the high school, which accounts for roughly half the overall cost of the $60 million project. Initially, the bulk of the high school improvements were slated for the summer and fall of 2021, but the coronavirus-related school shutdown moved that timetable forward as well.

"The CTE (career and technical education) and FACS (family and consumer sciences) areas will be ready for this fall," Kleist said, adding that construction of the new ninth grade wing, gymnasium and commons areas are all set for next summer.

Though substantial work has already been done at all four sites this spring and summer, Kleist said, "it's just the tip of the iceberg. We're probably around 15 to 20% done at this point."

The bulk of the project was funded through a $49.8 million bond referendum that was approved by local voters in November 2018. The remainder of the $60,651,714 overall cost of the improvements is being paid for through a combination of long-term facilities maintenance and abatement bond proceeds; a state security grant, which funded a new, secured entrance at Rossman Elementary that was originally included in the bond referendum; and other district resources.

"Bond funding will cover most of the project, but not all of it, so other district financial resources will be used to fill the gap," said Ryan Tangen, the district's business manager. "It is important to note, financial security for the district is the top priority. Careful consideration will be given before any current financial resources are committed to the project to ensure our long-term financial health."

There have also been some workers onsite at the school administration building recently; Tangen said they were doing some facilities maintenance work on the building's exterior brick that was not part of the $60 million project. "There's no construction going on there, just cleaning the building up a little," he said.

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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