‘Truly Hayfield Community Schools’; Two-year $24 million renovation project nears finish line

Published 6:47 am Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Despite the rain and flooding Dodge County experienced during the last week, Hayfield Community Schools is still on track for finishing its renovation project by the start of the new school year.

While the students and teachers may not necessarily be in their classrooms at the moment, Superintendent Gregg Slaathaug has been onsite every day this summer to check in on the progress. During the course of two years, the facility has seen major changes as part of the district’s $24 million renovation project.

“You see something new every day,” Slaathaug said. “Step away from the elementary school for three days and come back. What a difference.”

No stone was unturned in the Hayfield Community Schools facility project. Superintendent Gregg Slaathaug showcases the high school gymnasium that received new flooring and lighting, as well as a new mural representing the Hayfield Vikings that was painted by Albert Lea native Chandler Anderson.

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Inside Hayfield Elementary School, construction workers were hard at work renovating the classrooms and bathrooms. Having been almost completely gutted at the beginning of the summer, new spaces were taking shape. One large space will be the elementary school’s library, another a new school-age child care center.

The school hallways were given a fresh coat of paint—the last time was about two decades ago, Slaathaug noted— in Hayfield’s school colors, giving the atmosphere a clean, modern feel. A new kitchen was being created to service both the high school and elementary school. As Slaathaug walked around the school space on Monday morning, custodial staff were painting the door trims and railings gray.

Last summer, Hayfield High School’s cafeteria was completed and had doubled in space and featured large open windows that let in natural sunlight. The high school media center was completely finished, and the gymnasium received new flooring and lighting. For the entrance, a new security system was installed. A multipurpose room that will have glass windows was being constructed.

A glimpse of the new media center inside Hayfield High School. Hannah Yang/hannah.yang@austindailyherald.com

Hand-painted murals by Albert Lea native Chandler Anderson decorated the walls of the main competition gym that featured a Viking ship and two smaller paintings that adorned the sides of the high school’s theater stage.

“While we’ll still be having gym classes and having practices in here, this gym is multipurpose for our arts as well,” Slaathaug said. “That’s why the stage will be sanded and new fire retardant curtains will be installed.”

Not only has the school’s physical appearance changed, the classroom technology was also upgraded to the newest systems. Slaathaug praised the tech staff at Hayfield for “jumping right in.”

“Our tech crew jumped right in and did amazing work,” Slaathaug said. “Brian Bartley and his tech crew have done amazing work over the last two years on this project.”

Outside, contractors were working on finishing the roof tiling. The exterior of the school buildings were sandblasted and cleaned, and the stucco was given some fresh paint. Near the entrance of the high school was a giant Hayfield Vikings sign that changed different colored lights. The track field will be resurfaced and new fencing was installed. Asphalt and concrete fixed the gathering space between the baseball field and track field, where community members can get concessions and sit themselves for a game.

Hayfield High School students enjoyed lunch in their new cafeteria that opened last year after intensive renovations took place. Photo provided.

With the final work being done in the elementary school, Slaathaug was certain that the construction will be finished sometime in August, with teachers and students moving things back into classrooms before the start of the school year in September. Despite heavy rains having slowed down the roofing a little, most of the project stayed on schedule.

“It feels really good,” Slaathaug said with a smile. “We’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. This has been such a huge undertaking. Especially by our school staff to get this done with the remodeling and working around things. The reward will be well worth it.”

“Truly Hayfield Community Schools”

Back in 2017, Hayfield Community Schools taxpayers voted yes on a $14.3 million building referendum that provided major upgrades as part of a $24 million building project, with $10 million fixing infrastructure and classroom modifications, according to a previous story. Around $4.3 million of the funds were used to renovate and expand the school cafeteria, install new security measures at the entrances, install other common area upgrades and create a new school-age child care room.

Patrick Towey Jr. of Paape Construction and Hayfield Community School Board chairman, was hard at work with the renovation project at the school facility.

“This project was long overdue,” Slaathaug said. “The eyes on parents and students were wide open. They were saying how modern their school looked. This project gave kids a place to be proud of to call their school. The community is proud of its new school.”

Hayfield also received a $9.7 million low-interest Qualified Zone Academy Bonds grant from the Minnesota Department of Education, which has a zero percent interest rate and saved taxpayers about $4 million in interest over the bond’s life.

However, Slaathaug profusely credited all the communities that made up the Hayfield Community Schools District for coming together in making the project a reality. Soon, everyone will see what their referendum vote created.

“This is not just the Hayfield school and doesn’t belong just to Hayfield,” he said. “This is the Brownsdale, Sargeant, Waltham and Oslo school. This new school is truly Hayfield Community Schools. I’m blessed to be part of a district that values education, its students and facilities. I cannot wait to show this school to them.”