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Plans for Dassel-Cokato renovations move forward
Sept.. 19, 2016

By Ana Alexander
Staff Writer

COKATO, DASSEL, MN – The Dassel-Cokato School Board discussed its plans for the potential career and technical education (CTE) facilities during its Sept. 8 meeting.

Over the summer, Architects Rego + Youngquist received input from various teachers about their plans for the CTE facilities. Paul Youngquist attended the board meeting to update board members and the community on the plans for the facilities.

“Tonight we want to focus on the content of the project and the concepts, and decide if we want to move forward with this project,” Youngquist said.

Youngquist stated their intentions were to fine-tune the details of the project, so they could utilize as much of the existing space as possible.

“We’re really trying to make use of the square feet you already have,” Youngquist said.

One change the school would make is moving the Spanish room into the current business room. The room includes windows that look into the computer lab, so Youngquist suggested filling in the windows so the Spanish teacher would have more room for boards and posters.

The business room would move closer to the school store, allowing the students to take a more active role in the store. The new school store would include a production area in the back, where students could label and tag products to be sold. Students could also make items to be sold in the store in the production area.

Another significant change would occur in the current media center.

“It used to be that we had to go to the media center if we wanted to get any information,” Youngquist said. “But, today, we don’t have to do that.”

The media center would be turned into more of a student work space, where students could study by themselves and do research and development, or they could collaborate in groups with other students for class projects. The center would be available for student-use before, during, and after school.

“We want to really make this building for the next era,” Youngquist said. “We’d remodel that space – greatly consolidate the bookshelves.”

It is possible that nearly one-third of the books currently in the media center would be removed.

“Obviously, we want books and novels, and for kids to sit around and read, but we’re trying to create a room for students who, maybe, are in a group of six and need a place to work,” Youngquist said.

Youngquist budgeted $255,000 for renovating the media center.

“The reason I put so much [money in], is we need to redo the walls,” Youngquist said. “It needs to have a fresh spirit to it.”

The board decided on a spring vote on the project, which is set to take place in April.

Board Member Bill Aho raised concerns about moving forward with the CTE facilities project, while the Dassel Cokato Regional Ice and Sports Center (DCRSC) remains unfinished.

“It’s a discussion to be had to finish that thing,” Aho said. “We have a hockey program. We need more ice.”

Currently, hockey students are traveling to Litchfield to utilize facilities for hockey practice. Aho raised concerns about the money the school was spending to pay for its use of Litchfield’s facilities, as well as the late nights hockey students were having, due to their travel to and from Litchfield.

“We just signed a check to Litchfield and said, ‘Here, take care of our kids and let them play hockey,’” Aho said.

Aho suggested bringing together the CTE project with the ice arena. He suggested that physical education classes, spring sports, trade shows, and community fairs could take place in the DCRSC facility, which could tie it into the CTE project.

Board member Rebecca Clemen said she felt the DCRSC should remain separate from the CTE project.

“I think we’ve done our due diligence here. I don’t think we should be bringing that conversation [about the DCRSC] into this conversation [about the CTE],” Clemen said. “I do think that the conversation [about the DCRSC] should take place, however.”

Board Member Chuck Nelson questioned whether or not the unfinished DCRSC would affect voters’ decisions when it came to the April vote on the CTE. Board Member Mark Linder commented on the DCRSC, saying that it was not in their hands.

“You might know that, Mark, but a lot of voters won’t,” Nelson said.

The DCRSC, while on school grounds, is not in the control of the school. The DSCRSC, according to Linder, is a nonprofit working to self-raise funding to complete the project. The school itself does not have the capability of pushing the project forward at this time.

“We got to this point on unconventional terms based on their request,” said Linder. “There’s certainly no motivation here to not help the students with hockey.”

Superintendent Jeff Powers suggested that the ballot for the April vote contain a second question, separate from the CTE project, on whether or not the school should further discuss making the rink usable.

“I’d love to see that [rink] with ice in it, and our kids using it,” Powers said.

The board decided to keep the discussion for the DCRSC on the table, and to move forward with the CTE project, with the vote in April.

“The board is going to have to make a decision on the scope of this project,” Powers said. “You could look through the whole complex and argue for a spot that needs to be redone.”

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