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Andes Central expansion to be completed in 2018

LAKE ANDES -- Out with the old and in with the new. That's the motto for the Andes Central School District this year as it moves forward with a construction project that will replace the current middle and high school building. According to Super...

LAKE ANDES - Out with the old and in with the new.

That's the motto for the Andes Central School District this year as it moves forward with a construction project that will replace the current middle and high school building.

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 elementary school, which is housed in a separate location from the high school building.

Architects with TSP Incorporated, which has South Dakota offices in Rapid City and Sioux Falls, will meet with school officials next week to begin forming preliminary sketches of the building. Until the sketches are finalized and a construction company is chosen, Lucas said the board is unsure the project's cost.

Included are classrooms, restrooms, speciality rooms, a new gymnasium and "everything else you have to have in a school."

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"I think that it's a commitment to our patrons to show that we are dedicated to quality educational experiences for our students," Lucas said. "It really is a commitment to looking at 21st century needs of our students and being able to address those."

Though an anticipated date for the start of construction has not been set, Lucas said the district hopes to be moved into the addition by fall 2018.

Discussion about a possible building project began nearly 15 years ago, with then-board members creating 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.

With all of the district's 320 students housed in one, centralized location, Lucas said she is sure students will benefit in several ways, with one of the most important being the ability for older and younger students to be involved in mentorship programs.

As for district residents, Lucas said most people have been supportive.
"In any small town, there are people who are lifelong residents and remember growing up and going to school here, so leaving that is always difficult," Lucas said. "They had questions, certainly, but people, in general, seem genuinely excited about the future of our school district."

One of the questions residents had, Lucas said, was the future of the existing building. And, though that is unclear now, Lucas said she is hopeful either the district or area residents will find a use for the space.

"We have a main gymnasium and an auxiliary gym that's slightly smaller than that, so there's hope in a small town that there would be some need for that," Lucas said. "We're keeping our fingers crossed to see if we can't find another use for it."

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