“Our students, staff and community members are seeing firsthand the phases of construction we talked about at length with the community in the fall of 2019. We are grateful to district residents for seeing both the need and the vision, and for supporting the bond referendum,” said Dr. Wayne Kazmierczak, White Bear Lake Area Schools superintendent. “Much has been planned and built in the two years since that time, and we are excited to successfully complete all of the construction phases in the summer of 2025.” 

The first project to be completed in the fall of 2020 was the creation of a secure office and vestibule area at the district’s. The second phase of the ALC, which is scheduled to be completed during summer 2023, will include renovations to create a learning commons/flexible learning space, kitchen improvements and mechanical upgrades.

 

Elementary school projects that were constructed last year and completed before the school year began this fall included renovations to the media center, the addition of specialized learning spaces and upgrades to safety/security at Lincoln Elementary, Matoska International IB World School, Vadnais Heights Elementary and Willow Lane Elementary. A small classroom addition was added to Matoska International and a new full-size gymnasium addition was included in Lincoln’s construction project.

Construction crews also completed the transportation department’s new home, a facility that houses transportation staff and the district’s fleet, just before the school year. District vehicles are maintained and managed at the new site, located in Hugo. Moving to this new location allows for expansion of the unified high school campus onto the former bus garage site.

Additionally, the WBLAHS ‒ South Campus Phase 1 addition of a new gymnasium was completed before students came back in September. This gym, along with the one newly built at Lincoln, helps to address the need for community gymnasium space. The project also features a new entrance, vestibule, storage and walk-in freezer in the kitchen. The new space also includes privacy restrooms that are open during home events at the WBLAHS Stadium.

“Our construction crews have been terrific at staying on schedule and on budget, even in these times of building supply shortages,” said Tim Wald, assistant superintendent for finance and operations. “Their efforts and partnership have kept us on track.”

Cranes and strategically placed piles of dirt adorn other district sites currently under construction, especially at projects that broke ground this summer. Preparatory work for the additions and renovations that will create a unified White Bear Lake Area High School at the current WBLAHS ‒ North Campus site is going strong. The extensive excavations for the field house, the stadium and activities areas, and the classroom additions are impressive.

Groundbreaking also took place recently for the Phase II project at South Campus, which will be converted to a middle school when the new unified WBLAHS on the current North Campus site holds all students grades 9-12. The project includes new classrooms, renovations to some areas of the current building to include flexible learning spaces, and mechanical and security upgrades. A new front office space addition will accommodate a change to make the front entrance of the building open to McKnight Road rather than to the parking lot on the south side of the building.

Construction on the new elementary school, located just north of the Hugo Post Office along Highway 61, also has been moving along nicely. The building, which will have the capacity to house 720 students in grades K-5, broke ground in spring 2021 and is on track to be completed in time for students to attend in fall 2022. At that time, Oneka Elementary will also have a change in grading structure to serve students in grades K-5. The facility plan calls for Hugo Elementary to be converted to a northern Early Childhood Center in the future.

During the 2021-22 school year, projects will continue through the design and construction process and be finished before fall 2022 at Birch Lake, Lakeaires and Otter Lake elementary schools. Projects at the three elementary buildings include small additions, updated classrooms and media centers, and safety/security upgrades. 

When the facilities plan is complete, every elementary classroom in the district will have benefitted by the addition of new flexible furniture. Three elementary buildings were slated in Phase I of the furniture project and are currently experiencing the flexibility and choice it affords students in their learning. Phase II will include the remainder of elementary schools, which will receive their new furniture next summer. Moving forward, flexible furniture will be added to classrooms in the district’s early childhood, middle school and high school programs as items are needed.

“Knowing all of our students learn differently, we are being purposeful about building learning spaces that are versatile,” said Steve Asper, director of technology and innovation. “We’re able to create adaptable learning environments through both creative design and flexible furniture. That design principle of ‘space adaptability and flexibility’ is the catalyst to create a culture where students co-design their learning spaces, supporting the district’s vision of student agency.”

The referendum projects that remain on the docket include classroom additions at Oneka Elementary and renovation of the current District Center to create additional classroom space for Central Middle School. Both school buildings will also see updated classrooms and media centers and safety/security upgrades. 

The final piece of the comprehensive facilities plan will be completed in 2025 when the current Sunrise Park Middle School is renovated and converted for use as a home to the district’s Early Childhood Center, District Office, Senior Center and Transition Education Center. This construction project will begin after the middle school has moved to the current South Campus site in 2024.

Community members are invited to follow along with the district’s progress virtually. Project updates, detailed project presentations and photo/video footage of the projects are available on the Building Our Future page of the district’s website, isd624.org/BuildingOurFuture.

 

Contributed by Marisa Vette, director of communications and community relations for White Bear Lake Area Schools. 

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