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It's Our Turn: We can all be proud of AAHS

On Tuesday, the public was able to get a first-hand look at what they’ve been watching unfold for what seems to be a very long time – a brand new high school.

An open house and dedication event to celebrate the new Alexandria Area High School (AAHS) were overwhelmingly attended Tuesday, with organizers estimating between 4,000 and 5,000 people.

The building is impressive, featuring a state-of-the art, environmentally-friendly design. The building includes 181,700 bricks, 270,000 feet of cable, 5,750 gallons of paint, 2,835 light fixtures, 125,000 pieces of tile, 620 cubic yards of mortar and 470 cubic yards of grout…but it’s so much more than that.

AAHS also rose from countless hours of thinking, planning, brainstorming, number crunching, researching, information sharing and dreaming.

It wasn’t simply an architectural drawing put on paper and then constructed by skilled workers.

Much thought and planning and hard work went into the creation of the new high school long before voters ever allowed it to become reality. Before the referendum was ever passed, a group of people came together – school staff and administration, students, parents, nonparents, community members of all ages and walks of life – to talk about what a new school could look like.

Led by a trained facilitator, those people gathered in groups to design their dream school with children’s building blocks.

Later in the process, more community members were brought together to continue the dreaming. Those with skills or knowledge in certain areas, such as theater, arts, academics, business, manufacturing, etc., came together to talk about what the perfect performing arts center could look like, what the ideal high school programming and academic programming could look like, what a quality athletic campus could look like. They talked about what they believed a local high school would look like years from now.

People traveled near and far to look at what other areas are doing and brought back ideas and practices they believed could be a fit for this community. They looked at traditional and nontraditional, they analyzed cost and efficiency, they studied various types of learning styles, and much more.

All of that information was brought together to design a school that would offer a “comprehensive, well-rounded education across academics, arts and athletics.”

The goal was to offer a flexible design that worked now, but would also work well into the future.

The goal was to make learning personal for each individual student.

The goal was to utilize an eco-friendly and energy efficient design.

The goal was to create a school that gives students a sense of belonging and connectedness.

The goal was to make the school a community center.

Finally, all of that was brought to all of you, and you did the rest.

Money was raised through a capital campaign, and voters said yes, approving a bond referendum in September 2011.

That was the point where all those countless hours of thinking, planning, brainstorming and dreaming began to become a reality.

The groundbreaking was held a year later in September 2012, and now, nearly two years after that, the doors are open, welcoming the students, the staff and the community.

Superintendent Rick Lahn described many of those in attendance at Tuesday’s open house as “proud.”

They have every right to be. This is their school. It belongs to the community.

Congratulations to all of you for the role you played in making this dream become a reality for the Alexandria area.

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“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

Tara Bitzan

Tara Bitzan is editor of the Echo Press. She joined the company in 1991 as a news reporter. A lifelong resident of Douglas County, Tara graduated from Brandon High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications and English with a minor in Scandinavian Studies from Moorhead State University. She and her husband, Dennis, and their children live near Alexandria.

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