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Only weeks to go: Work on new high school coming to an end

The plan is the have the new Perham High School building ready for its new occupants before the end of August. Brian Hansel/FOCUS1 / 4
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The commons and cafeteria area in the new Perham High School is expected to be considerably larger. Brian Hansel/FOCUS3 / 4
The gymnasium of the high school is still awaiting bleachers and a maple floor. Brian Hansel/FOCUS4 / 4

Perham Superintendent Mitch Anderson is moving later this summer and he is taking hundreds of teenagers, faculty and support staff with him.

With summer pushing its way into July, work at the new Perham High School is about five weeks away from a point where the $40 million, 151,000-square foot house of learning can be occupied by school staff instead of construction workers.

The new school will be opening 102 years after the one opened on 200 Fifth Street SE.

"Most of what we've done is identify everything we want to use in the new building," Anderson said. "The last week of school the teachers had a pallet outside their classroom, and anything they needed to bring with them over to the new school they loaded onto the pallet and then we labeled it, put a shrink wrap on it, and we have that sitting down in our shop area ready to go. We've got 80 to 90 pallets ready to go when we can."

The school has contracted with several vendors to provide furniture for the new school. Anderson is working on a plan of moving the furniture left behind in the old school by putting it up for sale to the public or donating it to some other non-profits.

The new high school will be roughly 17,000-square feet larger than the older one. It will be a school of the 21st Century.

"It provides the functionality that we want for today's education," Anderson said, referring to the new building. "That is one big thing. You look at the way rooms are set up, and just the way things are laid out are just completely different."

Anderson remarked that at one time the old school provided a home for all of Perham's K-12 students.

"It certainly was undersized for that," Anderson said. "We had a study hall up on the top floor that had 150 kids crammed into it. We were shipping students way back in the 70s and 80s on buses to DL Tech and others just to free up space."

The space problem began to go away in 1990 when the Heart of the Lakes Elementary School was built. It continued to lessen in 1995 when the Prairie Wind Middle School was built.

"The gymnasium is considerably bigger. The commons area or cafeteria—those areas are a lot bigger."

Anderson understands the many memories which the old high school has for the community, but in the future it will have to find new occupants.

"It's reached the end of its life expectancy for serving as a high school," Anderson said.

Progress is something very much on Anderson's mind.

"We're down to the last five weeks here," Anderson said. "There is a lot of detail and finish work left to go. One of the big areas is the gymnasium; the wood floor has got to go in this week, and that is a three to four-week process. We're trying to get the building conditioned right now. You can't have too much moisture in the concrete, so there are portable air conditioners running right now trying to get that controlled before they put any wood down," Anderson said. "Some districts have had that issue."

Anderson said the floor is a polished concrete. The academic two-story classrooms are about 95 percent complete right now with carpeting and furniture set be installed in the coming weeks.

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