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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Temporary learning spaces readied for new school year in Ely

Keith Vandervort
Posted 7/28/21

ELY – School board members here had few questions Monday night as construction officials provided a building project update during a monthly study session.Representatives from Kraus Anderson …

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Temporary learning spaces readied for new school year in Ely


ELY – School board members here had few questions Monday night as construction officials provided a building project update during a monthly study session.
Representatives from Kraus Anderson and Architectural Resources Inc. are looking to maintain an open dialogue with school officials as the $20 million project proceeds. School administration are meeting regularly with construction officials as the beginning of the 2021-22 school year nears and learning spaces, some temporary, are prepared for students to occupy in just a few weeks.
Spaces for band, choir and industrial arts classes, as well as Early Childhood Family Education and other areas must be ready to go by the beginning of September. The first day of the new school year is Tuesday, Sept. 7. Students and staff will be spending in the year in a construction zone as the building project won’t be complete until the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.
“Things are constantly changing,” said Superintendent Erik Erie, “so weekly, even daily update meetings are continuing.”
He highlighted a new project update tool to school board members, developed by Kraus-Anderson, that is now available for viewing by the public.
“It highlights our project and provides a monthly update as a way for everyone to stay connected and see what is going on with the project on a regular basis,” Erie said. The link is available on the school’s website and their Facebook page at:
“We are having weekly update meetings with KA and ARI to make sure we are all on the same page and involved in any problem solving,” he said.
Brendan Ward, of Kraus-Anderson, summarized the contents of the project update tool.
Demolition and construction work on just Bid Package #1 of the project is in progress, as Bid Package #2 was rejected earlier this summer because of cost overruns. While the second bid package will be re-bid later this fall, several components of the project have been re-prioritized to make sure all necessary learning spaces are available for students this fall.
“The most current project information will be updated monthly to coincide with the fourth Monday of the month (the school board study session date),” Ward said.
The new construction between the Washington and Memorial buildings makes up the majority of the work in progress, but with that, portions of those existing buildings adjacent to the new linking building are also being developed this summer.
The Washington building ramp from the new addition into the existing school, the ECFE area, the Kindergarten rooms, and the fourth and fifth grade on the second floor are under construction, he said. In the Memorial building, the former media center is being developed for choir, band and a temporary Industrial Arts area.
The old Industrial Arts building is gone, along with the former boiler building.
“We have installed structural steel so we can start to demolish the 1975 addition this week,” Ward said. “We will then bring the site up to grade so we can install footings and foundations for the new addition, starting on the south end. We will continue to pour foundations toward the north end of the new addition space.”
The east side of the Washington building, dubbed Area D, is one of the “most critical” parts of the project, according to Ward. The area will house the new ECFE area and Kindergarten space.
“This month yet, we will start framing the walls and door frames, work on floor leveling and hopefully install ceiling grids,” he said. “It was communicated to us that we need to turn those spaces over as soon as we could. We want to turn those spaces back over to Anne (K-5 Principal Oelke) on Aug. 9.”
Similar work is under way on the west side of the Memorial building, including the new music room space in the former media center. New walls are going up and floor and ceiling work is progressing.
The new boiler room, located in the former swimming pool area on the south side of the Memorial building, is nearing completion. Ward said the new concrete pads are poured, the boilers are installed, and plumbing pipes are hooked up to the boilers.
“The work is in progress for an early- to mid-September fire up of the boilers so the school has heat,” he said.
The new propane tank location near the southwest corner of the campus is almost ready for the tank relocation move, Ward said.
Ward cautioned that challenges remain to get building materials for some of the construction areas, such as the ECFE rooms, that were pulled from Bid Package #2 and moved to the first phase to get the space ready for this fall.
“We have committed to Sept. 20 that this space will be turned back over to Anne to meet her program needs,” he said.
“In the Memorial building, currently industrial arts will be in the choir space on the second floor (temporarily). The floor is unfinished and we can use it for industrial arts,” he said. “We will be working with the building inspector to make sure all these spaces are safe for occupying.”
The relocated boys locker room, that was supposed to be part of Bid Package #2, was moved into the current construction phase for completion this fall.
“We are pricing out the new locker room, and we are finding there are some long lead times,” he said. “For instance, lockers are four months out right now. It will be a challenge to get that fully turned over by basketball season in November. We are aiming for a Thanksgiving timeframe.”
The majority of the renovation work on the existing buildings covered in Bid Package #2 is under redevelopment and reorganization by design, construction, and school officials with a timeline to rebid the work packages in mid- to late-fall, according to Karl Larsen of ARI. “We want the bids to fit within the original referendum, and we are coming up with a list of alternates. We will be bidding the majority of the same thing we did the first time around, but they will be organized differently into a shopping list of alternates, and the (school) board will have an opportunity to select which ones you can afford,” he said.
Board member Tony Colarich queried the builders on the contingency fund, in place for unforeseen expenses. According to Mike Dosan, of KA, a portion of the $975,000 contingency fund for the project has been used so far, but he did not have an accurate amount to report and promised to provide an up-to-date figure to the school board.


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