"Amazing" is how Wadena-Deer Creek School board chairman Kent Schmidt described the culmination of events that led to the open house of the remodeled WDC Elementary School.
At a podium that would have been set on Dayton Avenue last spring, WDC Superintendent Lee Westrum described the new bus parking area and playground as "awesome."
The gleeful squeals of kids and adults trying out the new area seemed to agree.
The community was invited to an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony Monday, Sept. 16, which was followed by a free meal and tours of the school. Workers involved in the construction grilled 600 hot dogs for the guests.
Just prior to cutting the ribbon, Westrum shared a long list of those he wanted to thank in the project. Some of those included staff that put up with the last two years of moving and changes, the city for their cooperation on the project, neighbors who endured change, and the voters that helped secure funding to complete the projects in November 2017.
Students were part of the ceremony, helping to cut the ribbon and singing a song to all those attending, thanking them for a remodeled school building.
Westrum reminded those looking at the school that of the $14.5 million project, 60% of the work was behind the scenes.
"You won't see any of that," Westrum said.
A driving force behind the project was to improve indoor air quality, including heating, cooling and ventilation. While the change was not seen, it was felt by some staff according to elementary principal Louis Rutten. As temperatures rose above 80 degrees Monday, a noticeable level of comfort was found by more rooms than usual. Rutten noted that not all areas were in tune and he said they would continue to work all the bugs out in the new system. Soon enough they'll be testing out the heating system.
Westrum noted that the work of business manager Brian Jacobson helped pull in an additional $140,000 and the competitive bidding helped bring in bids that were over $1 million lower than expected. Those funds combined to allow the school to do far more work including work in the elementary office, staff lounge, gymnasium, media center and playground area.
Westrum and Rutten both commented how the work that was completed should keep the facility strong for the next 20 years or more.
In a school board meeting following the open house, Damien Williams with ICS Consulting updated board members on the project. He noted that using a 180 point punch list, they're down to about 120 items to scratch off as complete. Many of those items would check off soon, while others could last into the winter. Williams said they will remain in the school into the next spring helping to get through the various needs as the new systems are used.
Williams noted some areas where things were not to specs that would be replaced, including some carpet issues, and a bathroom flooring issue. They also discovered an issue in the auditorium ceiling that they are looking into further in order to resolve a condensation issue.
Dave Bergeron with ICS Consulting shared how the community likely won't remember this project in about five years, but the work that's been done has exceeded the expectations of the community.
"You've done a fantastic job here," Bergeron said. He commended the cooperation between the city and school to get this done. He said cooperation like that doesn't always happen.