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VIDEO: Gilded shovels, golden futures

Sophomores today will be the first graduating class from the new high school in 2015. Pictured with their parents are (left to right): Lukas Bigger, Gretchen Watkins, Andrew Storm, Sydney Steinbring, Drew Eidsvold, Sam Carlson, Chase Nielson, Danika Guenther and Jenny Eng. (Echo Press photo by Crystal Dey)1 / 2
Science teacher Tom Smith described a class experiment where students saw a field where Jefferson High School stands, much like the land where the new high school will be constructed. (Echo Press photo by Crystal Dey)2 / 2

Can you dig it? Sophomores from Jefferson High School in Alexandria can. Grasping golden shovels, nine students dug in and tossed a tuft of dirt into the breeze on Friday afternoon at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new high school on Pioneer Road and 50th Avenue.

These students will be part of the school's first graduating class in 2015.

Described as "the newest high school" by Alexandria Mayor H. Dan Ness, the building has yet to be given a name. Mayor Ness said Jefferson High School was the new high school; he graduated from Central High School, which was replaced with Jefferson.

"We now have the bricks and mortar to accompany the great school system we have," said Mayor Ness. "It adds to the quality of life we have here."

The district will be moving forward with a naming policy for the building in October, said Jill Johnson, communications coordinator for Alexandria School District 206. The goal is to have a name prepared for board action in December.

Next to the School District 206 logo on the groundbreaking ceremony invitation was a logo for "Alexandria Area High School Education Complex" with a slogan of "Supporting academics, the arts and athletics."

Attendees gathered in what will become the academic wing of the school to hear Mayor Ness, Superintendent Terry Quist, Vice Chair of the Board of Education Dave Anderson and Jefferson High School Principal Chad Duwenhoegger speak about the new school progress. Teachers Sara Kosters and Tom Smith also spoke.

The wings of the school will be connected by a central airy commons area, all situated on a 167-acre site.

"The natural lighting will be much like being outside," Duwenhoegger said.

Duwenhoegger has been principal at Jefferson for five years. He believes the technology rich environment will be a great asset for the students.

"We're talking about the promise this building will bring," said Smith.

Smith teaches science; he shared a story about his class looking at photos from the 1930s when they realized the school they are currently attending did not exist. A field was in the location where they were standing. Now, another field will be home to another school as Alexandria continues to grow.

Mayor Ness said the new school will help in economic development of the area because schools are one aspect people look at when moving into a community. Smith attributed development in the area to a "culture of collaboration."

Bid package one included components for the athletic field. Estimated at $8,919,374, the cost came in at $7,619,819. Bid package two focused on foundations, wall panels and structural steel. At an estimated cost of $6,251,307, the low bid total was $6,169,073.

"We are well under project estimates and ahead of schedule," said Anderson.

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DeyCrystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.

Crystal Dey

Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.

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