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Board approves November vote on elementary building bond

The Wadena-Deer Creek school board approved a resolution last Thursday which could lead to an upgrade of the Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School in 2018. If the board's plan is approved by the Minnesota Department of Education, the question would be placed before district residents Nov. 7 at Memorial Auditorium in Wadena. Brian Hansel/Pioneer Journal

The Wadena-Deer Creek school board took a big step toward a Nov. 7 building bond vote for upgrades of the WDC Elementary building in a special meeting Aug. 3 at Robertson Theatre.

By a 5-0 vote, the school board authorized WDC Superintendent Lee Westrum to submit the district's building bond proposal to the Minnesota Department of Education. It is expected the board will have a reply from the MDE before its October meeting. If the MDE approves the plan, a public meeting must be held before voters go to the polls Nov. 7 at the Memorial Auditorium in Wadena.

The total amount of the building bond is $11,382,100. Voters will be asked to approve $5,203,980 of the bond.

The potential amount of upgrades the school board can approve without a vote by district residents is $9,304,810.

The greatest amount of the board-approved money, $5,674,370, would be applied to heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) upgrades and better indoor air quality.

Other improvements being planned would be remodeling of the kitchen and cafeteria (expanding from one serving line to two), a set of bathrooms near the cafeteria, switching the heating system to hot water (giving the school one heating system in place of two), replacing windows and doors, and adding split security features (key card entry doors and also door alarms) and security cameras.

The general appearance of the building (both inside and outside) would be modernized.

The outside of the Memorial Auditorium would also be upgraded with a new roof, tuckpointing and heating system.

There are also plans to create a more secure bus drop-off zone behind the school on Dayton Avenue and a drop-off zone on Fourth Street SW for cars.

Westrum said most of the work would be done in the summer of 2018, but the rest might not be completed until the fall. Krause-Anderson would be the general contractor in partnership with the district's planning consultant, FJJ.

In all probability District 2155 residents will be asked to vote on two questions in November. In order to avoid larger class sizes, the board needs to ask for a larger operating levy. The board is expected to vote on the operating levy measure at their Aug. 21 meeting. The amount of the operating levy request has not been determined. The last time an operating levy vote was taken in Wadena was 2011.

"I think it will be a good thing before we would be asking voters to vote one time," Westrum said.

Portions of the WDC Elementary building date back to the 1930s. The largest share of the building was added in the 1940's and 1950's. The most recent addition to the building, a wing of classrooms on the northeast side of the building, was added in 1992.

Westrum has been told the estimated the cost of putting up a new elementary building would be more than $32 million.

WDC Elementary is a facility on Colfax Avenue which employed 78 employees during the 2016-2017 school year. As of the first week in August, the current number of K-4 students registered for the 2017-2018 school year is 388.

A new WDC Junior High and Senior High building opened one block west of WDC Elementary in 2012. The $40 million dollar structure, which was built with insurance funds, replaced a senior high building which was destroyed by a tornado in 2010.

"One of the other things that puts us in a unique position I think is the building we are in now is $40 million and we don't owe anything on it," Westrum said. "To have a brand-new high school on your hands that you have no debt for is really a unique thing."