The race continues to complete the Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School before the next school year begins, and, at this time, workers have a comfortable lead.

The project involves updating heating, ventilation and air conditioning throughout the school as well as cosmetic improvements like paint, updated lockers, storage areas, windows and doors.

The most visible of the project this summer includes the complete removal of a portion of Dayton Ave., as well as the former playground area. This noticeable change has left the site a gravel desert at the moment, but in the coming weeks, the site will be transformed with a large bus parking area, student drop-off/pickup zone and a playground area unlike anyone around, officials say.

"This should be the cleanest playground in Minnesota," Westrum said. It's green turf surface is the key to keeping the site free of natural materials that often find their way back into the school.

Site superintendent Chris Wacker took WDC school board members on a tour of the site Monday, July 8. He highlighted that about 80% of the paint work to be done has been completed. New windows have been installed in the gym, allowing a stream of natural lighting into the formerly blocked out area. Removal of the street and playground were done quickly with site work coming to completion including utility work. And with a recent visit from the gridwork installer, other projects quickly moved along in order to get everything installed overhead in the ceiling before access to those spots becomes limited.

Wacker showed off the newly poured sidewalks around what will be a new bus parking area. It leaves space for trees to be planted within the concrete.

Wacker said the parking area and curb and gutter should be installed in the next week.

Board members heard the elementary office area will be revamped offer a more modern entry as well as offering a new workspace for staff.

Some of the classrooms were sporting new paint. Teachers had the option to choose from four colors. The colored stripes that some may remember was added last school year in the hallways has been replaced with the school colors, blue and gold. The idea around those different color stripes was to provide waypoints throughout the school for navigating, but Wacker said some of the colors mimicked those of other school colors and "it didn't get such a good reception."

Wacker believes that school staff should be able to begin removing plywood in the next week from carpeted floors to start cleaning up classrooms that reach completion.

Trade house sale

The school board approved the sale of the construction trades home to Wadena Housing and Redevelopment Authority at a price of $80,000, with a condition that the profit or loss from the sale would be split between WDC school, Wadena Development Authority and Wadena Housing and Redevelopment Authority once they place the home on a Wadena lot and sell the home.

School board member Ryan Damlo also serves on the housing and redevelopment board and as he has been working between the two boards, he said the plan includes placing this home on a lot previously cleared by the 2010 tornado on Irving Avenue. He called this a community house, a home that was built by local students, using local business products. His hope is that this would be the first of many homes to stay in Wadena and help provide housing for those seeking to live in Wadena, helping to add to the population, school enrollment and tax base.

One area of concern for those involved was the fact that a home mover could not be scheduled before Labor Day, apparently due to full schedules.

Superintendent Lee Westrum said that if the home cannot be moved in time for the school's trades class, they may have to look at other building plans. His thoughts included a garage for the school district or a press box at the softball fields.

Special education addition

Wadena-Deer Creek School district will seek another special education teacher following the recommendation from school officials and approval from school board members Monday.

Superintendent Lee Westrum said the cost of adding the position could be in the $50,000 range.

"I realize as we look at our budget that's going to cut into our surplus and we don't have contracts set yet ... that's concerning to me because we want to stay within our means," Westrum said. He added that half of that amount could be funded outside the school district.

The board was in full favor of the position after hearing that the amount of added student time expected in the coming school year would be, "pretty unmanageable," as Westrum put it. Elementary principal Louis Rutten said there was interest in the position.

Concerning the budget constraints this could add, Westrum added that the district is being conservative with their projections. He believed that the increased projections for the kindergarten class size could mean the school will come out better than expected. But if the budget is unable to sustain the added costs, Westrum said, "If we have to make adjustments next year than we will."

In other actions, the board:

• Accepted the retirements/resignations of Nick DeVillers, help desk technician and Alicia Wynn, elementary paraprofessional.

• Approved a nursing contract with Wadena County Public Health.

• Approved a mental health contract with Northern Pines.

• Approved a 10-year long-term facilities maintenance plan. Business manager Brian Jacobson noted that the plan is not much different from last year's, thankfully the school district has two practically new school buildings.