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Elementary construction halfway complete

Restoration and upgrades are about 52 percent complete at St. Croix Central Elementary school. Elsewhere in the district, the high school gymnasium floor and roof are being replaced, and other upgrades are being made to make all of the buildings more energy-efficient. Pictured, the inside of the elementary school entryway and office area has been stripped bare and will be completely rebuilt.(Submitted photo)

Workers are about halfway done reconstructing and upgrading the St. Croix Central Elementary School building.

According to Tim Widiker, district superintendent, work on the elementary school is approximately 52 percent complete.

An April 30 fire closed the St. Croix Central School building, causing approximately $4 million in damage. Fortunately, Widiker said, insurance is covering the cost of restoration.

Widiker said the extent of the damage in the office and library areas, where most of the fire damage was concentrated, will need the most repairs.

"Everything is gutted right down to the brick walls," Widiker said, "and even some of those brick walls had to be replaced."

However, Widiker said, while the building has been stripped down to its bare bones, the district has decided to make some upgrades.

"The elementary fire was a terrible tragedy, but its an opportunity," Widiker said. "With adversity comes opportunity. "

Some of the upgrades include security cameras both inside and outside the building; a new, more secure entryway that will require visitors to first enter the office in order to enter the rest of the building; and a walled-off computer lab within the library/media center.

Other areas being upgraded or restored include the heating ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC), the carpets near the location of the fire, as well as some other carpets that were simply due for replacement and the roof, which was already scheduled to be replaced, before it was damaged in the fire.

Widiker said the classroomsare scheduled to be ready for students on Sept. 3, but he isn't sure if the main office and the library will be ready by the time school starts.

"We've made it the priority to have all the classrooms ready for kids," Widiker said. "We don't want the kids to have to go back to Panther Camp."

High School gymnasium

SCC has another ongoing restoration project at the high school, replacing the gym floor after it sustained water damage when high winds from a large storm tore the gym roof off of the building Friday, June 21. The floor was a total loss and had to be completely replaced. Widiker said it is also on schedule to be complete by Sept. 3 or earlier.

Building reinvestment

In addition to reconstruction, the SCC school district is also completing what Widiker called "building reinvestment" work, or several upgrades to the SCC buildings designed to make them more environmentally sustainable. This has included new boilers and furnace systems designed to be more efficient, as well as new roofs on each of the schools.

These upgrades were previously budgeted for, and will cost the school district approximately $10.9 million

According to Widiker, all the schools are scheduled to be ready for students by Sept. 3.

Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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