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WDC School Board: Elementary project expected to finish on time

Wadena-Deer Creek school board members walk the halls Monday, Aug. 20, observing the cafeteria still under construction. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal1 / 3
WDC school board members along with WDC Superintendent Lee Westrum look over the staff lounge at the WDC Elementary School Monday, Aug. 20. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal2 / 3
A tile installer mixes grout Monday in one of the remodeled bathrooms at the WDC Elementary School. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal3 / 3

Staff and school board members viewed a vastly different Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School this week. One that's expected to be complete just before deadline.

The transformation that's taken place to about 60 percent of the school means staff and students will walk into a school built in the 1950s, but with mostly new interiors, it will have the feel of a brand new facility.

While the project was behind schedule by a few days in July, the addition of Saturdays to the schedule and crews of 60-100 workers on site most days has brought it back on schedule with substantial completion expected Wednesday, Aug. 22, allowing teachers to start to move some of their tools back into the school. The goal was to reach substantial completion by Aug. 24. Full completion is expected Aug. 28, with the school's open house scheduled the following day from 4-7 p.m.

The school board heard a report from Damian Williams of ICS Consulting, which noted that when complete, the school will have gone through about $8 million of the total $14.5 million reserved for the two-year project.

"We're getting a bulk of the work done this year," WDC Superintendent Lee Westrum said.

"We've been working very hard," Williams said. "There's still work to be done but everybody is on board."

Highlights of the walkthrough included expanded teaching areas in the classrooms as coat closet areas were removed. The kindergarten classrooms got the most excitement as they featured added storage areas for the kids, accent walls and an abundance of natural lighting.

All rooms were more comfortable thanks to new HVAC throughout the building.

"What I see in those classrooms ... it's better than I imagined," Westrum said. "It's exceeded my expectations."

Outside the classrooms were the traditional Wolverine color stripes along with other Minnesota sports-themed colors.

Westrum indicated that it's going to be a hectic week for staff looking to set up their rooms just right. But he was thrilled that the work would be done, and school would start on time.

In other actions:

• The board acknowledged new teachers of the district including Ed Sugg- sixth grade; Kyle Petermeier- fifth grade; Trent Johnson- fourth grade; Karli Tompkins- second grade; and Jessica Quam- Title.

• Other hires included Derek Plautz - Technology coordinator; Norm Gallant - Asst. Football; Ed Sugg - JH Football; Cindi Koll - CEO facilitator; Sheila Jackson - Title I Para; Deb Fitzsimmons - preschool para/teacher; Alicia Page - elementary para; Karli Tompkins - ninth grade volleyball; Patty Berg - JH volleyball; Sara Lenz - JH volleyball; Christine Kickhafer - paraprofessional.

• Resignations included Shane Snyder- Technology Director; Kaisa Nelson- Kids Club Para; Maria Soto - ABE Teacher.

• Approved purchasing two HVAC units for the Middle/High School. While the new school has only been in use for six years, the HVAC system is malfunctioning. The issue, Westrum said is a faulty controller, and the unit is no longer made by the manufacturer.

The cost of the units is about $40,000, the costs are eligible for long term facility maintenance funds, which the district has available.

Westrum commented that the systems work great when they work, but they are expensive and don't seem to last. Board members mulled over the options—all expensive. Board members approved buying the two units for now, with Westrum finding out warranty information.

• Unanimously approved a resolution continuing the free lunch in December program.

• Unanimously approved reinstating a full-time library aid.

• Unanimously approved restoring the position of the outdoor custodian.

The next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Bluffton Community Center.