The first day of school was Tuesday, Sept. 3, and as students entered the Pequot Lakes Middle and High School building they were in for a sight of new classrooms, a new cafeteria, a new media center and new athletic facilities, among numerous other aspects of the district’s $33,175,000 building bond project.
The Pequot Lakes School Board noted at a work session Aug. 26 that the project began when the district developed a strategic plan in 2007, when the need for updated facilities was recognized.
It took two votes for the referendum to pass, but on Feb. 8, 2011, the community approved the referendum and the project hit the ground running. Around two and a half years later, construction is nearing completion and students and the community have new and updated facilities at their disposal.
While there are numerous aspects to the project, including several major additions and renovations that went into use for the 2012-13 school year, below are some of the project highlights that debut this year.
Lunch will be transformed this year with new kitchen equipment, a new lunch line process and new eating area.
The district saved up $200,000 over many years to purchase new equipment for the kitchen, some of which was installed over the summer.
The middle level gym was transformed into a cafeteria, though the wood floor was preserved to keep the space multi-purpose and available for dance practice or other uses. The area has a new ceiling, sound-absorbing panels on the walls and the façade of a stage on one wall.
The former high school gym became the middle level gym, and a new gym and athletic wing was constructed on the south side of the building.
The new gym has three courts and bleachers on either side. Around the outside of the gym, on the second story, is a walking track. During varsity games the track will serve as an entrance to the top of the bleachers.
Superintendent Chris Lindholm said the indoor track will not be available to the public immediately after school, when sports teams have practice or when varsity teams play, but will be open for public use at other times of the day.
The addition also includes an auxiliary gym, weight room, locker rooms and two concession stands: one opening out to a patio area looking over the track and football field and another that opens to the hallway outside the gym.
The school also has a new football field and new track. In the future, most likely next summer, more bleachers will be added to either side of the existing bleachers, bringing seating from 500 to 1,000.
Community education was moved from its building on Lake Street to a new office adjacent to the gym. Three classrooms were constructed for health classes or community education. The wing can remain open while the rest of the school is secured.
Lindholm said that will be useful during sports tournaments or other athletics activities.
“I have never been in a more beautiful athletic facility anywhere,” Lindholm said.