Wondering what the schools in Detroit Lakes look like after all the recent construction projects? This photo tour of Detroit Lakes High School is the second in a series of four photo tours we're publishing over four issues of the Tribune, starting Sunday, Sept. 6 and ending with the Wednesday issue that comes out just after the first day of school on Monday, Sept. 14 (we'll be publishing the tours in full online, with limited photos in our print editions). The tours highlight the new updates and additions at all four Detroit Lakes Public Schools, made possible by a taxpayer-approved referendum passed in the fall of 2018. Excuse the mess: photos were taken shortly before the start of school, as some construction or clean-up work was still ongoing and teachers were setting up their classrooms.

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What was (and will be again) the main entrance to Detroit Lakes High School is currently a construction zone, as a new and expanded commons area and entryway are being built. This area will remain under construction during the first few months of school, and will be inaccessible until it opens in December. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)

Less than a week out from the first day of school, it's still very much a construction zone at Detroit Lakes High School.

Crews were welding, hammering and drilling away the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 4, when these photos were taken, working to meet a fast-approaching deadline. Some parts of the high school construction project -- namely, the remodeled career and technical education wing, and adjacent new arts and FACS addition -- are expected to be done and ready for use by the start of school on Monday, Sept. 14.

Other parts of the project, like a new commons area and main entryway, gymnasium, and ninth grade wing, are underway but don’t have the same urgency, as they’re slated for later opening dates (this December for the commons, and next fall for the gym and ninth grade additions). First and second floor academic area renovations will begin in May 2021.

Principal construction manager Dan Kleist of Gehrtz Construction said anyone who looks at these pictures will probably wonder how things could possibly be ready in time for the new school year. But appearances can be deceiving, he said, and most of the work left to do in the more urgent areas is superficial, “one day work” that consists of single-day jobs like putting in the ceiling or installing the cabinetry.

He anticipated that most of the new arts and family and consumer sciences addition would be done by Monday, though work would continue right up to the wire. The FACS food lab (cooking area with kitchenettes) will open around the end of September. Ryan Tangen, the school district’s business manager, previously told the Tribune that this slight delay is due to some unexpected but necessary “de-watering” and steel structuring needs in that area.


The renovated career and tech wing, Kleist said, will be ready for use by the first day of school. The entryway, main corridors and most everything else will be done; any remaining finishing work that might be left to do in the classrooms, labs or workshops will be buttoned up soon after school starts and should cause minimal disruption.

On the topic of minimizing disruptions, a temporary wall will be erected this week to separate the under-construction commons area from the rest of the school. The existing gymnasium will serve as a temporary commons area until the new commons opens. When it does, it’ll be much larger than before, and will boast a tall ceiling and wall of windows to let in natural light. Located at the front of the school, along Roosevelt Avenue, the area will also serve as the school's main entrance.

It'll be the building's defining design feature, said Principal Darren Wolf of the new commons and main entryway, a sort of "showpiece" for the school.

"It'll be something nice for the community to be proud of," he said, adding that the exterior look of it, "will match the great things we've got going on inside the building."

Wolf said the new commons is one of the additions he's looking forward to most. Another is the new ninth grade academy wing, which is slated to open in time for next school year, 2021-2022, and will add another 10 classrooms to the high school -- something he said is "sorely needed," as there's "a big bubble of kids coming" over the next couple of years, and they'll need the space.

Both Wolf and Kleist said the construction process has had (and will continue to have) a lot of moving pieces that need to be kept track of, and there have been some hiccups along the way, but overall, things are turning out well.

"I'm pleased with the product," said Wolf. "It's very professional-looking. I'm happy with what I've seen so far, and it makes me feel positive about the outlook for the rest of the project."

See the first tour, of Rossman Elementary, HERE.


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