Cool new school

Published 10:24 am Thursday, September 18, 2008

Barry Olson hopes the Blooming Prairie Independent School District feels good about what is going on around Victory Field.

The near $14 million Blooming Prairie High School expansion and modernization project is on schedule.

Air quality improvements have been made to the Blooming Prairie Elementary School later, but right now the focus are the facilities used by middle and high school students.

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“I would hope the residents of the district appreciate what is happening to their school,” Olson said Wednesday. “This is something everyone should be proud of and how it will help the students.”

Olson took time from his superintendent’s duties to conduct a tour of the facilities.

The expanse of the project begins from the outside, where there are two new parking lots: one reserved for faculty and the other for students and the general public.

A walk down the main hallway from the front main entrance, where administrative offices are located, shows progress made.

Labs and classrooms are brightly lit with new energy efficient windows.

The learning environment has been improved.

Further down the hallway, there’s a computer lab: a long, rectangular building also well-lit with computer screens illuminated.

Toward the end of the hallway is a sure hit of the expansion and renovation: a new media center.

Carpeted, it relies much on natural light streaming inside from windows facing Victory Field and the new running track.

There’s overhead natural lighting from the skies above, too.

The spacious media center is carpeted with computers at tables, study tables and comfortable “reading library” chairs for relaxation.

Off to one side is a small production room where the BPHS News will be broadcast to students, faculty and support staff.

It’s a closed-circuit television production studio ready to go on-the-air soon.

The north end includes more spacious classrooms already in use.

Olson, the superintendent, is eager to point out the pluses of the renovation and expansion wherever he goes.

Boilers were replaced, meaning a large up-front investment, but benefits to last for years in heating the facilities.

Another computer lab, more classrooms and soon enough Olson’s tour leads to the Awesome Blossoms gymnasium.

A high-polished new floor with “Awesome Blossoms” in large print painted on the slick wood panels stands out.

So does the wrestling mat rolled up and suspended along a wall out of the way until matches are held.

Whoever makes the first basket in the newly refurbished gymnasium will be bursting with pride in this place.

Then, it’s on to a multipurpose room that could double as a wrestling practice area and fill other needs looks like a practical addition.

Dodging workers, racing to get the first phase work competed, Olson’s tour moves forward to other spaces.

Kraus-Andrson, Inc. is the construction manager for the giant project. Wold Architects, Inc. designed the expansion and remodeled areas. According to Olson, the construction workers have worked “overtime” to prepare the spaces for the start of the 2008-09 school year,

The entire project should be done in late-August 2009 or in time for the start of the 2009-10 school year, according to the superintendent.

At last the tour returns to the south end of the high school-middle school complex and an examination of the shipping and receiving area for the custodial staff.

Then, it’s final words in the high school commons area.

It’s been an impressive tour. Floors, walls, windows, ceilings, air ventilation systems, light fixtures, carpeting and floor coverings … it’s all new everywhere.

Still to come are student lockers.

Even the bathrooms look different. Brightly lit, decorative wall tile, sinks with motor detectors to shut off the flow of water, handicapped accessible stalls.

Pick a favorite: the new running track, the media center (library), science labs, gymnasium … there are many choices.

According to Olson, there have been no major contraction delays and the project is proceeding on schedule; delivery of the new lockers the only hang-up of any consequence.

The superintendent said students and faculty alike say they like what they see happening to “their” school and the Blooming Prairie Board of Education has been very supportive throughout the entire reconstruction project.

Does he like what he sees? The smile on Olson’s face was answer enough.

That and the words of how proud the district can be of the new learning environment they have invested in their children.