There’s still a lot of construction work going on at Detroit Lakes High School, as anyone who drives by it can see.

A safety fence continues to surround the outside of the former (and future) main entrance area at the front of the school, where construction trucks and equipment sit outside an unfinished exterior as crews go in and out of the building, hard hats on and tools in hand.

Construction crew members work on piping near the ceiling of the future commons area at the high school on Thursday, April 8, 2021. Workers are aiming to get the commons done in time for the start of next school year. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)
Construction crew members work on piping near the ceiling of the future commons area at the high school on Thursday, April 8, 2021. Workers are aiming to get the commons done in time for the start of next school year. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)

Project leaders had said last summer that the new commons area -- the area behind that safety fence -- would be finished by January, several months earlier than originally thought, thanks to getting an early jump on construction during the COVID-19 shutdown last spring. They later realized that reaching that early deadline wasn’t feasible, however, at least not without some noise and other construction-related disruptions to students’ school days. So, they went back to their original target for the completion of the commons: the start of next school year.

“There were a lot of tie-in areas to the commons area, so that January deadline just wasn’t going to happen,” said principle construction manager Dan Kleist of Gehrtz Construction. “We talked with the school and . . . decided to not push too hard for that (early completion). It just wouldn’t have worked out the way we thought it would.”

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Those “tie-in areas,” which include a new kitchen, amphitheater and administrative offices, are all expected to be done by next school year, too. The new gymnasium being built near the commons will take a little longer to finish, Kleist said, and should be done by late fall/early winter. There will also be remodeling going on into late fall/early winter in the area where the administrative offices currently are, to repurpose that space.

Construction workers walk down a hallway toward an exit door while working near the new gymnasium area at the high school on Thursday, April 8, 2021. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)
Construction workers walk down a hallway toward an exit door while working near the new gymnasium area at the high school on Thursday, April 8, 2021. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)

Kleist said construction has been progressing well, especially in recent weeks as the early spring has brought warm temperatures and made more exterior work possible again, sooner than expected.

“Things are going pretty good,” he said. “The weather has helped us out a lot the last month or so, in getting things ready for the next season.”

The primary focus right now is on the new ninth grade Academy wing, which is in the final stages of construction. Kleist said the goal is to get that wing wrapped up by the end of May, so teachers can start moving into their new classrooms. Then, over the summer, they’ll be remodeling some second-story classrooms, aiming to have those done before the start of next school year.

At the middle school, there’s just “a little bit left to do in the commons,” Kleist said, adding, “That’ll be done in the summer.” And at Roosevelt Elementary, “everything is done but some outside work that we’ll do this summer.”

They’re the last legs of a large, districtwide construction project that began shortly after voters in November 2018 approved a school bond referendum to pay for the improvements. Many portions of the project are already done, including new gymnasiums and major remodeling and academic area additions at both Roosevelt and Rossman elementary schools, and extensive renovations at the middle school. At the high school, some classroom renovations have already been done, a new art and FACS addition is complete, and the career and technical education wing has been remodeled.

The new art room, opened earlier this school year, features tall ceilings and large windows for an open feel and lots of natural light.  It's pictured here during an art class on April 8. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)
The new art room, opened earlier this school year, features tall ceilings and large windows for an open feel and lots of natural light. It's pictured here during an art class on April 8. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)

For the most part, the various school projects have stuck to their original timelines, construction leaders have reported, with no major delays or interruptions.

“I think it’s going really well,” said Kleist. “Everything’s been trucking along really well. We had a nice, mild winter, and that’s helped us keep things going.”



This video was created by Laker Live class members Logan Johnson, Tommy Fritz, Connor Opsahl and Blake Skaaland, in March and April of 2021. Laker Live is an elective English course at Detroit Lakes High School in which juniors and seniors learn how to develop a pitch, create a storyboard, film, and edit videos that range from informational to entertaining. The class creates videos for the video boards at the football field and in the high school gym, as well as for school sports teams, academic clubs, graduation ceremonies, and local businesses upon request. The videos are also aired on Leighton Broadcasting’s Channel 3. The class will be making future videos on the construction projects at Rossman and Roosevelt elementary schools as well as at the middle school. To see all of Laker Live’s videos, visit the DLLakerLive YouTube channel.