An initial design for the new high school in Perham was accepted by the Perham-Dent School District board last Wednesday, when it reviewed the rough conceptual plan presented by Rob Collins, senior architect with TSP.

At this point in the design process, the district and others are defining a general layout for the new building and how it will flow from the middle school, according to Collins.

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"We are still just looking at big boxes," he told board members. "(The project) is on budget and on target with the space design phase. I think this is a good design for Perham."

The next step in the process will be fine-tuning the details as teachers and others who will use the rooms go into more detail, said Mitch Anderson, Perham-Dent Superintendent.

"We'll start looking at the specific needs for each of the classrooms," he said.

In accepting the schematic design, the board approved a satellite career technology, or vocational building detached from the main high school, which will house the ag science as well as basic woods and metal shops.

The building will incorporate high bay areas and ceilings, like would be found in a manufacturing facility, Anderson said, adding it is cheaper to build a separate building for such programs than it is to integrate into the high school building.

"(These shop courses) require a different environment," Anderson said. "We are looking at what we are doing currently and what we anticipate in the future with manufacturers like Kitmasters and KLN to fit the local needs. These programs require different models than what is in the high school."

Although it will be set apart, the satellite building will use the same materials as the high school and will allow for more cost effective add-ons as needed well into the future, he said.

"We don't want people thinking we're throwing the shop kids in a pole building," Anderson said. "It will be eye-catching and draw attention to the programs we've built."

He also said that the facility model will best meet the needs of students and local businesses. It used to be that four years of college were required, he said, but kids interested in trade careers can save tuition money by either entering the job market right out of high school or through a two-year tech school.

"It's fortunate that we have those jobs available right here in our own community. Students can jump right into a pretty good career here in their hometown." Anderson said. "It's a win-win for everyone."

Other elements of the high school design keep drop-off lanes separate from parking areas and student and staff parking separate, Collins noted in his presentation to the board. The new building will also integrate features from the middle school building, completed in 1995, such as a low sloped-roof structure and three brick colors. The academic area will be two stories with classrooms around the perimeter to allow for natural lighting, communal spaces on both floors and administrative offices. The activities department will be adjacent to the admin offices, Collins said.

The three-station gymnasium will incorporate an observation level with the media center, fitness center and wrestling room on the main floor.

The main entry to the high school will be on the west side of the building at the end of the interior great hall and space for signage on the outside of the building is planned.

"We plan to use metal wall panels on the exterior of the building to transition between the middle school and high school," Collins said, primarily because matching new bricks with the old won't be perfect. "The metal wall panels will lessen the difference between brick colors and distinguish the two buildings."

Board member Sue Huebsch asked if the observation deck would accommodate running, but Collins said it was not designed as a running track. Primarily the deck over the gymnasium, included in response to community input, is for physical education and adaptive physical education use. There is no intention to open the observation deck to the public, according to Anderson.

"It is for people who don't want to sit in chairs for three hours, who like to get up and walk around without missing the action on the floor," Collins said.

Huebsch also asked about building security and student safety as it related to a wall of windows at the main entrance. She suggested that perhaps a five-foot wall would stop an intruder from having access to other students down a long hall, and give those inside the school something to hide behind.

The safety concerns regarding windows and walls is a 50-50 mix of pro and con. Some school officials like the windows because it allows a clear view of everyone coming into the building; five-foot wall would also provide cover to a perpetrator, Collins said.

One feature that is part of building security is an intruder alert that would allow the building to be closed down by section to prevent full access to all areas of the school. However, in the case of an emergency, it would also prohibit full access to emergency responders.

"You would want to talk to your local police and fire departments about this," Collins said.

Heart of the Lakes Elementary design

Several changes in the design for the addition at Heart of the Lakes Elementary, primarily code related, have been worked out, according to Chad Bormann with BHH Architects in Perham.

There are more than 100 pages of detailed drawings that will be finalized by May 5, to allow the project to open for bids and stay on schedule, he said. A walk-through for contractors is planned on May 18, and bids will be due by May 28.

In answer to questions about the job being open to local contractors, Collins noted that bonding requirements may exclude local contractors, though they could be subcontracted to work on the school because criteria is less stringent than for a primary contractor.

While the HOTL project remains on budget and on schedule, the one hiccup could be the plan review by the state Department of Education, Anderson said. To allow work to begin on schedule, the district may apply for a partial plan review to allow outside work to begin while the state reviews interior plans.

The board also scheduled a community update meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 11, in the high school auditorium, following the regular school board meeting at 5 p.m. in the student union.