The plan is developing quite nicely.

With those words, John McNamara of Wold Architects began a presentation to the Redwood Area Board of Education Dec. 18 outlining the progress that is being made on the career and technical development center which will be added to the Redwood Valley schools building.

The idea of the center began with a significant donation from Orrin Estebo, and since that $1 million gift was announced work has been taking place to create a new educational wing to the local middle school and high school that will focus on hands-on training opportunities for students as they prepare to the enter the work force.

McNamara said the design as it exists was based on direction from the board, school administration and staff and the local business community. 

That local direction has been to provide access to “real-world, applied learning experiences that empower students to gain the skills they need to thrive in college, career and beyond.”

The project is currently in what is known as the design phase, and the current design plan progress was presented to the board. The new center will be located on the west end of the existing campus in the space from the current building and into part of the south parking lot.

According to McNamara, the idea has been to create additional rooms through new construction but also to remodel some of the existing spaces in the shop, music, agriculture and art education areas to enhance those programs and better utilize the space to meet a changing education philosophy.

The center will be part of the school itself, but it will also have its own main entrance, said McNamara, which allows it to be used at different times of the day for community training and education.

That, he said, has been part of the plan from the start.

In the new spaces being constructed areas will be created for business, health and agriculture, with an additional area set aside as a grow lab.

While the design is intended to help the addition blend into the current school building by using similar brick on portions of the exterior, the design being proposed also makes the center a distinct site through the use of what McNamara called more of an industrial look.

“This will be a unique space, and we wanted to highlight what is being created,” explained McNamara.

The current design plan would also create a new space for the career counseling program, with office space for that staff. The design has a more open feel to it, as more clear glass will be used in construction of interior walls, which McNamara said is intentional to provide the opportunity for prospective students to see into the classrooms.

That way, he added, they can learn what is going on and potentially have their interest in getting involved in the programs piqued.

As part of the presentation, McNamara said the current budget is in the $3.95 million range, although that number includes $200,000 to finish converting the parking lot area to concrete, as well as an alternate bid for additional space in the music department.

“The music department currently has three music spaces and with this design there will be one less,” said Rick Ellingworth, Redwood Area School District superintendent. “This is an exemplary program that is probably growing.”

Ellingworth said as the project continues to unfold it is his hope that the school board will seriously consider that alternate for the music department.

With the design phase nearing its end, McNamara said the next phase will be to complete construction documents and then to issue bid documents in the January/February time frame.

The current plan would provide opportunity for the board to then approve those documents, which would then move the project into the bidding phase in March. With the awarding of the bid for the work in late March and the start of the work as soon as school comes to an end.

“When school is out the work would start,” said McNamara, adding it will take in the area of eight to 10 months to complete.

That could allow for the project to be completed in December 2018 with students potentially then utilizing the space in the second semester of the 2018-19 school year.

“It is important to move forward to create a space that is as good or better than it is now,” said McNamara.

Ellingworth said discussions continue about the after-school use of the center, adding businesses continue to express interest in use. He added there is also the potential to open up the center for expanded use during the summer months.

Orrin Estebo, who was in attendance at the meeting hearkened back to the 90s when the middle school and high school facility was first built. He recalled that cuts had to be made.

“For whatever reason, there were things not included,” said Estebo.

He then added his hope is that would not happen with this training center.

“People in this community care about what is happening,” said Estebo, adding he is hopeful about the future of the community based on the number of former students he is seeing return to their hometown. “When the school was built and the cuts needed to be made, no one went out and asked the community for money.”

Estebo said he believes people are going to be willing to help make up the difference to ensure that this center is the best it can possibly be.

“You just need to ask,” Estebo said. “You need to sell it, and you need to make sure it is done right.”

Ellingworth expressed the fact that he really likes the flexibility that has been incorporated into the design, adding that allows the school district to also be flexible for the future. “Who knows what might be out there in five to 10 years,”

Ellingworth said, adding the flexibility built into the design will allow for changes to be made to help meet whatever will come next, whether that be more focus on drone technology to robotics.

“We have options that can help us stay on the cutting edge.”

At the end of the discussion, the school board directed McNamara and his team to proceed with the project based on the timeline presented.

In other action during its Dec. 18 meeting, the Redwood Area Board of Education:

• Accepted the resignations of Joni Nieland as a high-school science teacher effective approximately May 29, 2018; David Berner from his position as assistant varsity football coach effective Dec. 6 and Justin Timm from his position as assistant varsity football coach effective Dec. 8.

• Approved the employment of Melissa Cardona as an RVMS/HS paraprofessional at a rate of $11.50 per hour, Emily Nelson as a Cardinal Kids Club assistant at a rate of $11.85 per hour, Halle Runck, Isaiah Wall and Ciara Amundson as part of the Reede Gray student mentorship program at a rate of $9.50 per hour.

• Adopted resolutions expressing support for the Minnesota School Boards Association efforts to lobby for full funding for special education from the state and federal government based on the 1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act which is now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

• Approved a request from the Redwood Valley High School student council to have the student council fund improvements in the restroom facilities in the school, including adding solid air fresheners, hand lotion in the women’s bathroom, wall decals with quotes/jokes, a full length mirror, Kleenex and shelving with hooks at an approximate cost of $500 annually and a one-time cost of approximately $200.