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WDC board takes first step toward updating elementary school

The Wadena-Deer Creek school board approved a planning agreement Feb. 21 which could be the first step in modernizing the decades-old elementary school.

The board voted to proceed with the $20,000 agreement proposed by the engineering firm of Foster, Jacobs and Johnson and the general contracting firm of Kraus-Anderson.

FJJ Principal Partner Dave Bergeron along with Education Consultant Glenn Chiodo and Project Development Engineer Jason Splett joined Kraus-Anderson Construction Manager Chad Rettke and the WDC board in the Robertson Theatre for a half-hour video presentation.

"It's an agreement with those folks to look at things and get a lot of input from folks," WDC Superintendent Lee Westrum said.

According to Westrum, preliminary studies of the elementary show the mechanical systems of the building are getting older.

"We've had to spend a fair amount of money on them already," Westrum said. "It's pretty clear we need to upgrade our elementary."

Westrum likes the methodical approach which Bergeron and his team laid out to the board Monday evening. Besides running their own analysis, Bergeron said his team would be talking with school staff and members of the community to gain their input.

"They believe the schools belong to the community," Westrum said.

Bergeron outlined a four-phase process that included an assessment, solutions and decision making before implementation of a plan began - a process which is expected to take 5-8 months.

"I don't want to rush," Westrum said. "I want to make sure it's done right."

At this point, Westrum indicated he is as curious as anyone what the project might cost. A multi-funding solution for Park Rapids came in at $11.3 million. One recently approved at Red Lake Falls was $4.3 million.

The WDC middle/senior high was built at a cost of $43 million with insurance funds after the 2010 tornado which destroyed the former high school building.

In addition to enlisting the aid of FJJ and Kraus-Anderson for engineering and building help, Westrum said the board is planning to bring in their financial advisor, Ehlers, to look at ways of paying for the remodeling improvements.

Westrum pointed out that in 2020, District 2155 will have its debt paid off.

"There is the potential here for us to really upgrade our facilities and not see our taxpayer rates go up," Westrum said.

The board also listened to a proposal by Apptegy, an educational consultant firm from Little Rock, Ark. which builds websites for schools and is designed to distribute content, images and videos. The Apptegy website would replace the school's current $300 website. A three-year plan would cost the district $36,520.

"The drawback is that it's expensive," Westrum said.

While the board took no action, the proposal is likely to come up again at the board's March meeting. If approved, the new website could have a rollout date in August.

Resignation/retirements were accepted from Patti Isaacson, a preschool teacher with 26 years of experience; Jane Malone, an elementary library paraprofessional who has been with the district 34 years; and Bonnie Roberts, who has been in Food Services for 13 years.

The board approved the hiring of Jared Hotakainen as junior high softball coach, Keith Ferris as assistant softball coach, Kristyn Rude as assistant dance coach and Samantha Plautz, for Food Service work at M/State.