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Lifelong Learning

Facilities task force recommends replacing high school on current site

February 7, 2019

The High School Facilities Task Force recommended replacing Moorhead High School on the existing site during its report to the School Board at a special meeting Jan. 31. The task force recommendation includes an off-site career and technical center. The board will be asked to take action on the recommendation at the Feb. 11 meeting.

The majority of the task force members (81 percent) voted in support of the building replacement on the existing site, which will cost approximately $93 million. The career and technical center will cost approximately $13 million.

Consultants Jeff Olson and Terry Quist and facilities task force members Ann Hagen and Mike Kieselbach provided background information about the task force process that led to the recommendation.

The facilities task force was formed in August 2018 with representatives of stakeholders in the district, including community members, high school students, School Board members, and district and school employees. The task force was charged with reviewing the 2015 Facilities Master Plan and 2018 Portrait of a Graduate to provide the School Board with recommendations to address capacity, adequacy and design drivers of high school facilities for the next five, 10 and 25 years.

Hagen explained that the task force used the eight characteristics of the Portrait of a Graduate developed by the Portrait of a Graduate task force last school year. They heard from architects, consultants, teachers, survey coordinator, and school bonding expert about all aspects of changing high school design.

Task force members visited three schools in Bismarck, N.D. Previously members of the Portrait of a Graduate task force visited three schools in the Twin Cities metro area. Hagen said that seeing how other schools operate was helpful in the discussion.

“Overall I felt the process went really well,” she said. “It was an open forum for people to bring their opinions and have quality discussions. I feel like our discussions helped us come to a decision that will help provide a great high school experience for our Moorhead High graduates.”

Other options weighed by the task force were a new building on a new site for $130 million or two sites (building replacement on existing site and a new building on a new site) for $168 million. All options include the off-site career and technical center and land acquisition for the future.

The recommendation from the task force would have an annual tax impact of $100 on a $200,000 home. The other options had annual tax impacts of $150 and $225 respectively on a $200,000 home.

Results from the community survey conducted in November indicate that approximately 60 percent of registered voters are supportive of the need for high school improvements. Without knowing details of the plan, the majority would be supportive of a tax increase between $50 to $100 per year on a $200,000 home.

Following action by the School Board, a separate task force will be formed to work on conceptual design activities related to the facilities option. The new task force will look at design drivers identified by the facilities task force that support and enhance the Portrait of a Graduate.

Brian Berg with Zerr Berg Architects reviewed the design drivers identified by the task force.

  • Provide welcoming, engaging and fully accessible spaces throughout the school in an environment that supports connectivity and social interaction, reinforces positive behavior and identity, and enhances occupant safety and security.
  • Provide flexible, adaptable, versatile learning spaces that can support multiple modes of learning from traditional lecture to small group activities, active learning, collaboration and peer-to-peer learning.
  • Spaces must support personalized, student-centered learning within small learning communities (school within a school).
  • Provide access to natural light throughout with an appropriate level of transparency between common areas and circulation spaces to learning spaces.
  • Provide an entry that projects community and school pride.
  • Provide spaces that support and enhance the eight characteristics in the Portrait of a Moorhead Graduate.
  • Make building systems and finish decisions that support durability, sustainability and operational efficiency.

Over the next few months, three meetings are set for the conceptual design task force to review concepts, site analysis and observations and discuss design concepts. Additional meetings will be scheduled if needed. The recommendation to the board from that task force will help determine what the school should look like.

The School Board will take action on the date and scope of a bond referendum by the summer of 2019. Construction of a high school facility would take approximately two years.

The school as recommended will be designed for 2,400 students with common areas designed for 2,600 students. Approximately a quarter of the existing building — mainly the fieldhouse and ninth-grade center — will be renovated. Most of the current school will be removed following completion of the first phase. This will eliminate the lack of light, split-level configuration and circulation issues found in the current high school, Berg said.

Construction of the high school will be done in two phases allowing students to attend Moorhead High while new academic space is built to the north of the existing school. This will likely impact the theater and music classrooms during the construction of the new academic space.

“We want to get community input before we get more detailed,” Berg said.

Replacement of parking and traffic control for the site will be key for the beginning of the project and maintaining safety for students, said Steve Gehrtz with Gehrtz Construction Services.

“Your task force should be commended,” Berg told the board. “There were some tough questions asked. I think we ended up with a good outcome because of those tough questions that were asked.”

Cassidy Bjorklund, a School Board representative on the task force, said a goal of everyone on the task force was what was best for students.

“Wholeheartedly, we went in with students’ concerns first,” Bjorklund said. “This is a good strong option for us to vote on.”

Photo: Mike Kieselbach and Ann Hagen, members of the High School Facilities Task Force, share the task force process and recommendation with the School Board at the special meeting Jan. 31.

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