New Alexandria high school referendum: The projectSchool District 206 voters will mark their ballots on September 27 for or against building a new high school in Alexandria.
By: Wendy Wilson, Alexandria Echo Press
School District 206 voters will mark their ballots on September 27 for or against building a new high school in Alexandria.
This article is part one of a four-part series explaining the $65.15 million building bond referendum, focusing on the project, the need, the cost and answering questions posed within the community.
Land for a new high school was purchased in conjunction with a referendum approved by voters in 2007.
The Minnesota Department of Education granted approval of the construction of the new high school on June 25; and on July 18 the school board approved putting the building referendum before voters.
For a total cost of $70.5 million, with $65.15 million paid by district taxpayers over the course of 25 years, the district proposes to build a new high school to replace Jefferson High School in Alexandria.
“It’s been a long-term process with a great amount of community input and involvement,” Superintendent Terry Quist said.
The 167-acre site is located at the intersection of 50th Avenue and Pioneer Road, across the street from the Knute Nelson Grand Arbor project.
The conceptual plan for the new high school includes a building with about 280,000 square feet in a wheel-shaped design with four spokes or wings extending from the central hub of the project.
“It will be an environmentally friendly design,” Quist said.
Two three-story academic wings about 80 feet by 200 feet each in size would extend from one side of the project. The academic space would include 36 classrooms, science labs, 12 flexible learning spaces, special education classrooms, a technology/engineering lab, art rooms and a media center.
“It will be state-of-the-art technology in terms of the equipment we have in there,” Quist said.
Technology would include wireless and hard-wired connections, available throughout the building.
An outdoor learning area would be located near the two academic wings. Community gardens may be included.
“[It] is meant to be flexible in terms of how we can use space, allows for more personalization in terms of working with students on an individual or small group or more traditional class room or large groups of students,” Quist said. “The idea is to have flexible space and adapt down the road to new and changing trends.”
Special learning studios for art, woodworking, digital media, technology and science would also be available.
In the center hub would be a student commons area and cafeteria available to community members.
On the other side of the complex, a performing arts center would include a school and community auditorium capable of seating 1,000 people. The orchestra, band and choir programs would each have a separate room. A stage with an overhead loft and a scene shop would round out the center.
Another wing within the planned school would be used for activities. The space would include a three-station gymnasium with locker rooms and an auxiliary gym as well as a strength and conditioning room and a wrestling practice area. Outdoors, athletic fields would be available for additional activities.
“Most of our activities after school go elsewhere because there’s no space at Jefferson to do it,” Quist said.
The spaces in the activities areas would also be available for community use as well as school.
“The idea of trying to bring as many things as possible back to one campus will build connections between students and between students and staff,” Quist said. “Those are all things that we’re hoping for.”
The new high school is part of the school district’s two-phase plan, following the construction of Woodland Elementary.
Compared to JHS’ ability to teach students grades 10 through 12, the new high school would accommodate 1,400 students in grades 9 through 12.
“To have all the students under one roof would be much more efficient in many ways,” Quist said.
Other amenities at the new school would include science labs, an energy-efficient, “eco-friendly” atmosphere that would utilize natural light and produce a projected cost savings of about $65,000 annually. It would also provide an arts and educational center available to all residents living in the community and would be handicap accessible.
Detailed design work would begin immediately following voters’ approval of the referendum. Onsite work is anticipated to begin in late spring or early summer 2012.
Completion of the project is expected before the fall semester of 2014.
“I think there will be a tremendous impact on students,” Quist said.
Informational sessions are being held on the following dates:
Tonight (Friday) at 5:30 p.m. at Jefferson High School;
Monday, September 12 at 6 p.m. at Voyager Elementary and 7 p.m. at Garfield Elementary;
Tuesday, September 13 at 5 p.m. at Lincoln Elementary and 7 p.m. at Woodland Elementary;
Wednesday, September 14 at 5:30 p.m. at Carlos Elementary and at 6:30 p.m. at Miltona Science Magnet Elementary;
Thursday, September 15 at 5 p.m. at the Early Education Center;
Saturday, September 17 at 9 a.m. at Jefferson High School; and
Tuesday, September 20 at 11:30 a.m. at Jefferson High School.
A coffee conversation with Superintendent Terry Quist is set for Wednesday, September 14 at 8:30 a.m. at the Traveler’s Inn.
More information about the referendum may be found on the school district’s website at www.alexandria.k12.mn.us.
New School Referendum
Watch for the series on the proposed high school to continue in these upcoming issues:
Part 2: The need
Part 3: The cost
Part 4: Q & A