With school starting in less than a month, the construction projects happening at all four of Detroit Lakes’ public schools are entering their final phases for the summer.

Most of the work at the middle school and both elementary schools is wrapping up now, with classroom additions and renovations set to be done and ready by Sept. 4 at the latest, giving teachers at least a week to set up their classrooms before the first day of school on Monday, Sept. 14.

Classroom renovations at the high school will also be done by then, according to the school district’s business manager, Ryan Tangen. Tangen shared a construction update with the school board at a meeting Monday morning, Aug. 17, and also spoke with the Tribune later that day.

He said the new commons area at the high school will be ready ahead of schedule -- “the anticipated online date is December” -- thanks to getting an early jump on the project this past spring, when the schools closed for distance learning. Construction on that area will continue until the new commons opens.

The new arts and family and consumer sciences, or FACS, addition at the high school is slightly delayed and will be ready around the end of September, “not quite by the start of school,” Tangen said, explaining that steel structuring needs and some “de-watering on that site … added some extra time” to that part of the project.

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A major remodel of the school’s career and technical education wing is on time and “will be ready for the school year,” he added.

Construction work will be ongoing at the high school throughout the year, until the start of next school year, 2021-2022, as work on a new ninth grade Academy wing and gymnasium continues. Most of the rest of the work will be finished by the start of this school year, with the exception of the arts and FACS addition, which is a few weeks behind schedule and should be ready by early October, and the new commons area, which is expected to open in December, ahead of what was originally planned. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)
Construction work will be ongoing at the high school throughout the year, until the start of next school year, 2021-2022, as work on a new ninth grade Academy wing and gymnasium continues. Most of the rest of the work will be finished by the start of this school year, with the exception of the arts and FACS addition, which is a few weeks behind schedule and should be ready by early October, and the new commons area, which is expected to open in December, ahead of what was originally planned. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)

Parts of the high school project that are most visible to people driving by -- the new ninth grade Academy addition on the north end of the building and new gymnasium on the south end -- are still planned for completion about a year from now, in time for the 2021-2022 school year. Construction will continue on those areas over the next year.

“They’re separate from the rest of the facility,” Tangen said of the new gym and ninth grade wing, so construction can continue through the school year with minimal disruption.

“The goal was to have all the classrooms available on day one of school,” said Tangen, and that goal will be met. “Overall, the buildings are looking great. There’ll be some bumps along the way, but in the end we’re going to have four really nice buildings for our students.”

“Everything that we anticipated having ready will be ready, with the exception of the FACS area at the high school, but we have some strategies to take care of that,” Principal Construction Manager Dan Kleist of Gehrtz Construction told the Tribune late Tuesday. “A lot of things come right down to the end, but I think we’re going to pull it off right at the end here.”

With a little work left to do at the middle and elementary schools, and significant construction remaining at the high school, the total cost of the projects is currently above what was originally projected, but is still within the district’s contingency plan.

Initially, the district set the project total at about $58.7 million. As of July 31, according to information provided by the school district, the total sits at about $60.7 million, due to a number of change orders that have been approved along the way. There still remains over $378,000 in the contingency fund.

The construction projects are being funded mostly through general obligation construction bonds, which were approved by voters in a $49.8 million bond levy referendum in November 2018. The remainder is being payed for through a combination of long-term facilities maintenance bonds, grants and other non-levy sources.

Tangen said the school district would like to hold open houses for parents and the public once construction is complete at the various buildings, but isn’t sure yet whether that will happen, or what those might look like, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said building principals are still meeting to make those decisions.

Where things are, building by building:

Rossman Elementary: Construction is complete, other than “a bit to wrap up in the kitchen and commons area, and some landscaping outside,” according to Tangen. It will all be done in plenty of time for the start of school. Total project cost as of July 31: $9,666,709.89.

Roosevelt Elementary: Classrooms will be available for move-in by Aug. 26, while the administrative area will be ready by Sept. 4. The gymnasium addition will open in time for next school year, not this year; that area is isolated from the rest of the building and thus construction can continue through the year with minimal disruption. Everything but that gym, Kleist said, “will be wrapped up by the time school starts.” Total project cost as of July 31: $11,976,415.83.

Detroit Lakes Middle School: Most classrooms will be ready by the end of August, with a few not available until Sept. 4. The administrative area is mostly done and is being painted this week; plumbing and hookups for the renovated kitchen area will be finished by the end of next week. “Everything there should be wrapped up by the start of school,” Kleist said. Total project cost as of July 31: $7,772,620.72.

Detroit Lakes High School: Renovated classrooms and the career and technical education wing will be ready in time for the start of school. The new art and FACS addition will open around the end of September/early October, and the commons area is slated for completion in December, ahead of schedule. The new ninth grade wing and south end gymnasium will be ready in time for next school year, as per the original schedule. Construction on those areas will continue through the year. The northeast and southeast parking lots will be paved in time for the new school year. Total project cost as of July 31: $31,364,800.43.