by Dennis Dalman
A tour of the Sartell-St. Stephen District Office Building last week was like watching an old, broken patient being patched up — head to toe — by a team of busy doctors.
The building is being almost totally redone, in major and minor ways, to modernize it and to accommodate the Early Childhood programs of the school district, which until now have been housed at Oak Ridge Elementary School.
Last year, voters passed a $9-million bond, making long-overdue fix-it projects possible throughout the school district. The “district office building,” as it’s sometimes known, was built in the 1930s and served for many years as Sartell’s only school, up to eighth grade, until the late 1960s.
To show the extent of the changes at the district-office building, two school officials and the construction project manager conducted a tour July 11 for local news-media members. The tour guides were Sartell-St. Stephen School District Superintendent Joe Hill, business director Steve Wruck and overall project manager Robbie Schultz of the Winkelman Building Corp.
During the tour, much of the building looked as if an earthquake had struck it. Some walls and ceilings were stripped bare, with gaping holes evident here and there. Rubble, such as boards, cement and dust, filled many rooms and hallways.
There will be three major changes in the building once the refurbishing is completed in late August. The district offices will be moved to another part of the building; the Early Childhood programs will be located in completely redone classrooms and offices in the west wing; and the Senior Connection headquarters, formerly in the west wing, will be located in the east wing.
The Early Childhood program badly needed new headquarters. Its offerings, for ages 0-4, now have a total enrollment of about 1,100.
The extensive community-education program will stay in the building.
Another feature of the refurbished building is there will be a couple of all-purpose rooms in it that could be used by the public, as well as for staff training.
Other improvements include double-pane windows, parent observation windows into Early Childhood classrooms, replacement of the 50-year-old boiler system, a fiber-optic communications network, new roofing, a refurbished gym floor and a floor-level stage.
The district-office will be re-roofed next summer as part of Phase II.
“We’re glad for the summer months,” Hill said. “There is a lull in student traffic, except for the community-education program here. The crews are working very hard to get the project done in the short time frame we have.”
Although the projects were about three weeks behind at one time, excellent progress has been made, and all necessary refurbishments are expected to be completed in time for the next school year, which will begin on Sept. 5, Schultz noted.
“We consider this (the district-wide refurbishments) a great gift from the community,” Hill said. “We’re very grateful.”
Phase I, this summer, accounts for almost all of the improvements authorized by voters. The other projects, in other school buildings, are also underway. They include:
Roofing the north half of the middle school this summer, as well as the high school.
The parking lots will be redone next summer at both the high school and middle school.
The gym floors at the high school and middle school will be redone.
The tennis courts will be resurfaced.
The running track will be redone and widened.
The football field will be sodded after it is recentered (because of adjacent running-track changes).
The swimming pool will be refurbished.
All buildings will have changes to make them more energy-efficient. And all will have fiber-optic high-speed communications capabilities.