High school could locate with M-State

Since this past July, the Detroit Lakes School Board has been sifting through a half-dozen or more proposals for solving the space issues caused by the district's burgeoning student enrollment.

Since this past July, the Detroit Lakes School Board has been sifting through a half-dozen or more proposals for solving the space issues caused by the district’s burgeoning student enrollment.

By November, it appeared the district had narrowed those options down to three - but on Thursday night, a new proposal was brought forward to the public for the first time that may be one of the most innovative to date.

During a community meeting that was called Thursday night to receive public input on the school facility proposals, Superintendent Doug Froke revealed that a new option had been presented: To build a high school on the local campus of Minnesota State Community & Technical College.

“We see this as a win-win for everyone involved - Detroit Lakes Schools, the community, and M State,” Froke said during his presentation.

Though the proposal was so new they did not yet have any kind of cost estimate, or even an idea of exactly where on the campus the high school would be built, he added, “this (proposal) is ripe with opportunity to provide our students with a new kind of education.”


“There are a lot of things left to be determined,” said DL School Board Chair Ladd Lyngaas - but the potential is there for the district to become “a model for other communities around the state.”

Tom Whelihan, senior dean of academic affairs for M State, said that Detroit Lakes “would be the first district in the state to adopt this model” - i.e., co-locating a high school and community college on the same campus.

“We (M State) are solidly behind this plan,” he added.

Vern Schnathorst, the coordinator of the school district’s School-to-Work program, said co-locating the high school and M State at the same site could open up some exciting new opportunities in that arena.

“If we’re creative about this we could have something really outstanding five years from now,” he said.

One caveat was brought up during Thursday’s discussion: What would happen to the soccer fields, located adjacent to M State, which are heavily used by the community’s youth and high school soccer programs?

“We have about 600 kids that participate in soccer,” said Dave Carter, who coaches the girls’ soccer program at Detroit Lakes High School.

“There’s been a lot of work put into those fields over the years,” he added.


“I can see the benefits (of moving the high school to the M State campus)… I’m fully supportive of what’s good for the school district,” Carter said.

“I’m just asking you not to leave us (the soccer program) out in the cold.”

Both Lyngaas and board member Dr. Tom Seaworth assured Carter that this wouldn’t happen.

“This is brand new,” Seaworth said. “We’re asking you and others to be involved (in the discussion) from the beginning.”

Local resident Mitch Wimmer also spoke up to ask the board not to abandon the other proposals on the table just because this one is “new and exciting.”

Lyngaas assured him that wasn’t the case, and all the other proposals were still on the table as well.

Those options include additions and renovations at all current school facilities (tentative price tag, $52 million); building an entirely new high school or middle school on a 40-acre site owned by the district on Tower Road (tentative price tag, $70-80 million); or building an addition to the current high school to move the middle school students over to that campus (tentative price tag, $60 million).

Froke said another community meeting would be held in January, at which time more definite building plans and cost projections for the M State/DLHS proposal would be presented.


Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes .

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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