by Mike Knaak
The last big project in the Sartell-St. Stephen school district’s multi-year building and reconfiguration plan is nearing completion on Seventh Street N.
Remodeling and construction work converting the 1993 high school that served grades nine through 12 to a middle school for sixth- through eighth-graders is more than 75 percent complete.
“There’s more open access for kids to use technology, a much easier way for them to flow from one spot to another,” Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert said.
When middle school students arrive this fall, they will find an enlarged media center with full views of the woods outside the school. Years ago, the library at the current middle school was converted to four classrooms.
The current middle school serves four grades – fifth through eighth – with about 1,300 students. The remodeled former high school building will serve three grades with an enrollment of about 930.
“We’re so packed at the current middle school, it will be so nice for those kids to have some space,” Schwiebert said.
There’s new paint and carpeting throughout the building with the omnipresent mauve replaced with a bright blue.
Outside the science rooms, a student work space is decorated with geometric shapes to give the room an “ice cave” feel.
Above the entrance and cafeteria, workers are replacing the energy-inefficient skylight with new energy-efficient materials. Down below in the cafeteria, classroom furniture is piled high.
In the southeast wing, spacious music rooms for band, choir and orchestra replaced the industrial technology labs. What were once garage doors have been converted to large windows in the orchestra room.
Outside, major work is underway repairing the metal roof and the wood underneath, which had been damaged by ice dams.
John Waletzko, superintendent for contractor Bradbury Stamm, said there are 40 to 50 workers on the site each day. The work should wrap up in early May.
“When students come back in, they will see it as a middle school building rather than as a high school. That’s one of the big intents…to make it fit for a 6th- to 8th-grade student body rather than a high school student body.”
The district’s youngest students will see major shifts next fall. Oak Ridge will become Oak Ridge Early Learning Center, serving students PreK and kindergarten. Pine Meadow will be renamed Pine Meadow Primary School for first- and second-graders. The current middle school (and 1969 high school) will be renamed Riverview Intermediate School for grades three through five. The district’s new high school on Pinecone Road opened last fall.