There was no Generation Gap Sunday at the new Perham Senior High Open House. The droves of visitors, both young and old, who toured the 158,000-square foot facility graded it very high.
“It’s really big, it’s really modern and it’s really cool,” Sophomore Elayna Kawlewski said.
Fellow sophomore Faith Jepson was also awed by the size of the school which was designed for 500 students and a core capacity of 600-650.
“I think it’s going to take awhile for everyone to get used to it but I think it’s going to be very beneficial in the long run,” said Jepson.
Every section of the $30 million building was occupied Sunday and a dedication ceremony in the massive gymnasium was attended by dignitaries such as Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, Seventh District Congressman Collin Peterson, District 8 State Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen and District 8A Representative Larry “Bud” Nornes of the Minnesota House of Representatives, Otter Tail County District 1 Commissioner Doug Huebsch and Perham Mayor Tim Meehl. In addition to members of the Perham-Dent administration, School Board Chairperson Sue Von Ruden and members of the Board of Education were also on hand. Superintendent Mitch Anderson opened the program and then turned the mic over to Von Ruden who addressed the future in her remarks.
“This building is the foundation that will supply generations of young people with all the facilities that will enable our staff to teach and our students to learn in new and different ways,” Von Ruden said. “This building is designed for the development of 21st Century learning skills which are creativity, problem-solving, collaboration and communication.”
Dr. Edgar Ziegler graduated from the old Perham High School in 1948. Looking up at one of the many second story pictures adorning the gymnasium walls, the old athlete commented on a picture of some 1950 Perham football players in an offensive formation.
“I knew them all,” said the retired dentist. “I played for Ted Meinhover. We had three high school sports when I was in high school - football, basketball and track and field. Ted coached all three of them.”
Anthony Deuchar will be a senior at PHS. He will graduate with the first class out of the new school. He liked what he saw as he looked around the Modtronics section.
“I think it’s nice and a good facility,” Deuchar said.
The senior high was built with the 21st Century in mind and the technology advances it will see. It was built to suit students like Deuchar, who already has a good understanding of the field of robotics. Deuchar sees PHS as a springboard to a tech school like Central Lakes College in Staples.
Julie Peters and Don and Linda Isensee were given a map of the school when they entered the Great Hall, the school’s impressive commons area. Like many others, they needed more than just the map to help them navigate the hallways and rooms of the building.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Linda said, when asked for her impression of the school.
“It’s money went-spent,” echoed Don.
The building will house an academic wing, wood and metal shops, a fine arts section, food service, a receiving area, a gymnasium that will include three courts, a fitness room, locker rooms and coaches offices, administrative offices, a special education section, a Media Center, a Alternative Learning Center (ALC) and a health department in addition to the commons area
Dale and Darlene Schultz, Perham graduates of the Classes off 1967 and 1970, were awed by the size and splendor of the building.
“It’s pretty massive,” said Dale, who farms in the Perham area. “They should have everything they should possibly need.”
“It almost makes you want to go back to school, almost,” Darlene joked.
Doug Sundberg of the Class of 1971 looked down the Great Hall from a vantage point above the main floor and shook his head in wonderment.
“It’s impressive, there’s no doubt about that,” Sundberg said, adding with a smile, “what money will buy.”
John Turgeon and his wife, Jan, also gave the facility high marks.
“It’s very impressive,” said John, who recently retired from serving as the head of maintenance at Perham’s popular Perham Area Community Center.
John said he liked the planning that went into the building. “It looks like a low maintenance building. It’s very well thought out.”
Jan, who served the district as a counselor before retiring, was impressed with the technology the building offered after touring the music department and finding booths where students could record privately and then send the recordings to their instructor.
Six different firms partnered in the construction of the building. When a referendum passed in 2015 for multiple projects, including the new high school, it paved the way for an April groundbreaking in 2017. BHH Partners was the Architect of Record and Olaf Anderson was the General Contractor.
John Hirschey spent most of his working days wearing a construction hard hat in Montana. After going around the school he gave the new building a thumbs up.
“It’s outstanding to have a building of this nature in a town this size,” the rural Perham man said.
All three levels of education - elementary, middle school and high school are now reunited on the same campus for the first time in 25 years. The senior high and middle school are connected with the elementary school close by.
Classes in Perham will begin Sept. 4.