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GCED closes in on building design

The main entrance of the new Goodhue County Education Association facility will face north, with bus drop-off and a staff entrance on the south side of the building, closest to Red Wing High School. (Building rendering courtesy of GCED/MLA Architects)

Since getting approval to build a new facility and choosing an architect a little over a month ago – a process which took years – the Goodhue County Education District is close to finalizing a floor plan for a new building next to Red Wing High School.

The process has picked up speed and GCED Director Cherie Johnson said that plans should be finalized by May 1.

Architects, GCED staff and several GCED Board members have met every Monday since the beginning of March to finalize plans for the building.

“That took years to get to that point and now this is moving very quickly,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the process for designing the building is the opposite of how a traditional district usually approaches a new facility.

Typically, Johnson said, districts would determine their needs, figure out the cost and then go to the taxpayers and ask if they support the new building. With this building, however, the GCED knew the budget going in to the design process and staff must work to keep everything within that budget.

“We know what we can afford and now we have to build a plan within that budget,” Johnson said.

A large part of the planning process is determining future needs for the education district, something Johnson said they have been doing for years.

Lead architect Mark Lenz said as they move forward in the planning process it’s important to plan for expansion so things such as plumbing and duct can be installed accordingly and won’t need to be redone if the need arises.

“It’s a full-time job, but it’s worth it,” Johnson said of the design process. “This is a building that will be built for the physical and emotional needs of these kids.”

Everything from lighting, materials, classroom space, noise levels, outside space for students and even rounding the hallways to form more of a loop throughout the building are being looked at to ensure it will serve the students and staff in the best way possible, she said.

The building also will have a science lab, which is the first time many of the students will have access to a real science lab, Johnson said.

Aside from forming the new facility to fit the needs of GCED students and staff, Johnson said making the building accessible to the community beyond the school day is another important factor.

“We want this building to be a community space,” she said. “When we end our day at 4 o’clock, we don’t want that building to go dark.”

The building was designed with the ability to close off access the classrooms and keep the gym space open for use throughout the evenings and weekends.

The land purchase and shared services agreement with Red Wing Public Schools has yet to be finalized, which includes snow removal, repairing parking lots, food service and keeping up the grounds to name a few.

Johnson said the GCED will likely pay a percentage of those costs and she wanted the agreement to cover everything and be fair to ensure the GCED is carrying their own weight.

The new facility should be something all member districts should be proud of, she said, adding there are very few sites like this across the state.

Johnson said she encourages everyone to be involved, hear what’s going on with the facility and give feedback.

“We’re really trying to design something that will be a good fit for us for decades,” she said.

If the process continues on schedule Johnson said groundbreaking should take place late summer or early fall. The building is expected to be around 65,000 square feet and open in fall 2015.

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett


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