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New high school in Alexandria, lots of homework ahead

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Now that the new Alexandria high school building project has the green light from voters, the planning begins.

School board members have started exploring the project's timeline, environmental design options and the opportunities available for the new performing arts center. They talked about those topics at Monday night's school board meeting.

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TIMELINE

Work at the 167-acre site could begin next spring or early summer, with the new school scheduled to open in fall 2014.

In the meantime, there's a lot of planning to do and the architectural firm, Cuningham Group, provided a tentative schedule for the next year.

Here's an overview of how the district will approach the project over the next year:

• Programming and schematic design: October 2011-January 2012: Design team meetings, consultant work sessions, preliminary definitions of building systems and more

• Design development: February-May 2012: Design development begins, meeting with city and program teams, coordination sets, finalize sitework, cost estimates, board approval

• Construction documents: June-September 2012: Consultants coordination meetings, beginning of sitework, begin foundation work

Beginning in November, during their regular meetings, the board will meet with project architects for updates.

Alexandria Public Schools Superintendent Terry Quist said the goal is to operate an inclusive design process.

The design teams - committees of school district staff, students, parents and community members - have met since the referendum passed and looked at several elements of the building plan. They studied the exterior, auditorium, student commons area, administration, gymnasium and more.

Quist said, "We had about 100 people at the meeting and we'll continue meeting another couple months."

In the meantime, and throughout the planning and building of the new school, district leaders said the school district's website (www.alexandria.k12.mn.us) will be an information source for the community as the project progresses.

A tentative schedule of next year's work is on the school district's website titled, "Tentative timeline for the next year of the new high school project activities."

ENVIRONMENTAL

DESIGN?

Although district leaders are still very much in the preliminary planning stages, the board will consider including a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for the new high school building.

LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system that promotes sustainable building sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation in design and more.

According to its website, LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in March 2000 and LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

During the November meeting, the Alexandria School Board is scheduled to consider whether or not they'll pursue LEED certification for the new high school.

Quist said, "For now, the school board is studying LEED certification to learn what it means, what it will cost and how it would fit into the high school project."

PERFORMING ARTS CENTER'S

OPPORTUNITIES

The new high school will likely also feature a large auditorium and musical and theatrical performance space for, not only the student performances, but public activities, events and organizations as well.

There have already been a few inquiries from well-known musicians and performers interested in bringing their talents to the local stage.

Alexandria Schools Music Teacher Brad Lambrecht said he has received inquiries from the Minnesota Opera, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra regarding their interest in performing in Alexandria once the new performing arts center is open.

"The wonderful part of all of this is that the year the new high school opens will be the 100th anniversary of the music program in District 206," Lambrecht said.

There has also reportedly been communication with Concordia College and St. Olaf Choirs performing at the new high school.

Lambrecht added, "This all happened within 48 hours of the referendum passing - five world-renowned ensembles want to come to Alexandria to perform."

No dates have been set, but the interest is there, he said.

Class of 2015

and freeing up space

• This year's current 9th graders will be the first class to graduate from the new high school.

• The district has noted that because the new high school will hold grades 9-12, beginning in fall 2014 the middle school will house grades 6-8 and the elementaries grades K-5.

• This change in grade configuration will offer both 6th and 9th graders more academic opportunities and will free up space in all the district's elementary schools, according to the district's website.

Source: www.alexandria.k12.mn.us

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Amy Chaffins
Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, Amy’s first job was at KSAX-TV working as an anchor and reporter. From 2003-2010, Amy worked as an editor and reporter for the Pope County Tribune and Starbuck Times newspapers. During her journalism career, Amy earned writing and photography awards from the Associated Press, Minnesota Newspaper Association and Society of Professional Journalists. Amy and her husband, Brandon, live in Alexandria and together write “He Sez, She Sez,” a humor column in the local women’s magazine, Chicz
(320) 763-1242
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