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Lake Andes school officials unveil plans for $13M school expansion

Keith Stroh, owner’s representative with KMS Engineering, speaks during the Andes Central School Board's unveiling of preliminary plans for a $13 million expansion Wednesday night at the Andes Central school. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)

LAKE ANDES — Lake Andes residents got a sneak peek Wednesday night at preliminary designs for a new school building.

On Wednesday, the school board held a public informational meeting to unveil preliminary designs for a $13 million project to add 55,000 square feet to the high school and connect the elementary and high schools. An additional 24,000 square feet will be remodeled.

Construction is anticipated to begin in the spring and be completed by August 2018 for use by the 2018-19 school year.

"I think it's exciting and a huge step for our community, and it shows our community is moving forward," Andes Central School Board President Debbie Houseman said. "As a board, we're excited and confident we are ready for this project."

Included in the sketches are 13 new classrooms, restrooms, speciality rooms, administrative offices, a courtyard, two new gymnasiums and various other amenities. Also included in the preliminary designs is a "secured entrance," which creates a main point of entry for patrons entering the school during classroom hours. The secured entrance will be located near the administrative offices on the south end of the school.

The main gym will seat approximately 750 people, and the second full-size gymnasium will seat about 375. The school board said Wednesday the school's current gymnasium will be repurposed into the school's library.

"As a board, we had to look really hard at what was really necessary," Houseman said. "It was really important to us to have two full-size gymnasiums that could hold a true varsity event and hold capacity to have public there watching our kids compete."

And when the expansion is complete, Houseman said school officials hope it allows the district to add more programs and enhance existing ones, such as agriculture and family consumer science classes.

The project comes in slightly over budget, Houseman said Wednesday.

Originally, the district was hoping the project would cost $10 million. But funding the additional $3 million isn't an issue, Houseman said.

To fund the expansion and reconstruction, the district plans to take $6 million from its reserve funds, and has secured a loan through the United States Department of Agriculture with a 3.375 percent interest rate over a 20-year period, which will fund the remainder of the project.

According to Superintendent Debera Lucas, the current middle/high school building was constructed in the 1950s and, as a result of its age, the Andes Central School Board decided recently to add an "extensive" expansion to the high school, which is housed in a separate location from the elementary school building.

Discussion about a possible building project began nearly 15 years ago, when then-board members created a "long-range" plan for the district, Lucas said. After three public hearings and months of school board meetings dominated by the topic, Lucas said the board felt the time was right to undertake the project. And, its members also felt district dollars would be better spent on an expansion project, as opposed to a renovation of the current building.

Architects with TSP Incorporated, which has South Dakota offices in Rapid City and Sioux Falls, met with school officials in November to begin forming preliminary sketches of the building and Puetz Construction, of Mitchell, was hired as the project's construction manager.

And, while the design isn't "anything exceptional," Keith Stroh said it will be a major improvement for the Andes Central School District.

"It's very streamlined," said Stroh, owner's representative with KMS Engineering. "It's not a Taj Mahal, but it's going to be a nice school and something the community can be proud of when it's done."

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