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School Board discusses underpass as upcoming feature outside Dakota Middle School

The school district will pay for a portion of the cost to construct the underpass, which will be $171,242. It will be 80 feet long.

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Site plan of the new Rochester Public Schools middle school at 65th Street and 55th Avenue Northwest in Rochester. (Contributed)

While construction workers are busy putting together the hallways and classrooms of the future Dakota Middle School, city and school district officials have begun talking about how students will get to the building safely.

At its meeting last week, the Rochester School Board discussed the creation of an underpass of 65th Street Northwest, connecting the houses and bike path on the south side of the road with the school on the north.

The underpass was just one of several referendum-related projects on which the board heard an update.

The school district will pay for a portion of the cost to construct the underpass, which will be $171,242. The district's operations director Scott Sherden said the tunnel will be 80 feet long. The board will eventually have to approve the project in order for the state to allow it to move forward.

Board member Julie Workman asked a number of questions related to the underpass's safety, such as whether it would be lit and whether it would be open all the time or just when students are using it.


“It’s for public use,” Sherden said. “Similar to the tunnels you see under bridges on walk paths and trails.”

Construction of the school on the north side of 65th Street is in full swing. The next six weeks will include work on Sheetrock and painting, tilework, work on the stairwells, and kitchen rough-ins.


Voters approved a $180.9 million referendum in 2019 for several projects throughout the district. According to Sherden’s presentation, the budget for the projects has exceeded that by more than $2.3 million.

“It is a scary figure, obviously,” Sherden said. He then said the district has earned money on the original bond funding that it will be able to put toward the projects.

RPS Finance Director John Carlson tweeted about the situation, as well.

“When the bonds were sold in early 2020, the proceeds we received were put into investments that would earn interest while construction was ongoing,” Carlson said. “We have enough interest earnings to cover this level of difference.”


Two other schools

In addition to the construction of Dakota Middle School, the district is also in the process of rebuilding Longfellow and Bishop elementary schools. The district has already completed a fourth building project -- the new Overland Elementary in northwest Rochester just east of U.S. Highway 52.

“Obviously, one of the major concerns was the lead times on a lot of materials that’s due to COVID and the transportation issues of getting materials around,” Sherden said. “We’ve been very lucky. A lot of our contractors pre-ordered long ago and so that helped us tremendously to stay on schedule.”

Among the three schools under construction, Bishop is the least far along. Whereas Dakota and Longfellow are essentially enclosed and resemble their future selves, Bishop is still a collection of walls making a rough, open framework, with empty pockets where windows will eventually sit. Sherden said, though, that the building is farther along than it looks to passersby.

During the next six weeks, the work at Bisho will include erecting the precast elements, roofing, and electrical service.

The work at Longfellow during the next six weeks looks more similar to that of Dakota Middle School: painting; Sheetrocking and taping; and mechanical, electric, and plumbing rough-ins. However, it also will include other projects such as roofing.

“This one has really come along really well,” Sherden said of Longfellow.

All the buildings are scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2022-23 school year. Longfellowwill be ready for use by mid-June, Sherden said, to fit the 45-15 schedule that has students starting class at the end of July.

Century Pool

Sherden also touched on the addition of the new swimming pool at Century High School. The foundation for the pool, which is being constructed off the north cafeteria, has already been completed. He said the next step will be the precast elements He said the pool is expected to be completed by Sept. 15.


Bond Projects Board Update, November by inforumdocs on Scribd

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