Board authorizes letting bids for Handke project

by Jim Boyle


The Elk River Area School Board authorized the administration on Dec. 9 to go out for bids for the remodeling of the Handke Center north wing.

Greg Hein, the executive director of business services for the Elk River Area School District, shared that the school district will be going out for bids in a very competitive climate, but the district has done several things to prepare for that to give the district its best shot at coming in within its parameters.

An artist's rendering of what the proposed new entrance would look like.
An artist’s rendering of what the proposed new entrance would look like.

The school district put out bid packages for best value methodology last year about this time, but the bids that came back were too high and unacceptable, Hein said, noting the project was put on hold.

This time the district is going with the more traditional method of bidding, but they also expect to see some inflation in the bids.

“We are seeing some inflation in construction as the economy picks up,” Hein said.

To prepare, the district asked the Minnesota Department of Education to include some inflation in its numbers.

Hein said the district has also worked with the architects to time the bids.

“We want firms to have enough time to assess the project and give us the best shot, yet not wait too long,” Hein said. “There will be a lot of construction across the state, particularly with the need for kindergarten spaces.

“We’re competing in a tougher environment, but we believe we have done everything we can to prepare for that.”

Bids will be due about the third week in January, Hein told the board.

Handke is the district’s original high school and was built 1930. The north wing, added in 1951, houses the district’s Early Childhood and Family Education program, Early Childhood Screening programs and the Reach-Up Head Start classroom.

This is a preliminary drawing of a corridor in the Handke Center remodeling project going out for bid.
This is a preliminary drawing of a corridor in the Handke Center remodeling project going out for bid.

The school district’s oldest building has a growing list of problems, ranging from failed urinals and classroom heaters that no longer work and have been removed to very narrow doorways that prevent handicap accessibility and the lack of modern-day security measures.

Most troublesome might be the infiltration of water from rain and snow through large wood-framed windows. Paneling has been hung to hide the resulting eye sores and prevent children from picking at the spackling walls. But that doesn’t prevent the mold spores from forming, director of community engagement Charlie Blesener told the School Board during a Sept. 16 tour.

Blesener gave a historical run down of the project at that time. He reported the district has completed three phases of an overall plan to renovate the school’s original 1931 structure and its subsequent additions and renovations. There are two more left. The fourth phase is expected to cost about $4.1 million to $4.5 million plus architect fees, other fees and contingencies, according to Hein’s report in September.

The primary funding source for the project will be alternative facilities levy dollars the district brings in each year for upkeep of its existing buildings. The levy allows districts to replace like for like. It is not a tool to put on classroom additions.

Parking lot, modern security, conference room among plans 

The renovation and remodeling project is proposed to replace the parking lot and create a new, more distinctive main entrance with a vestibule by remodeling the school’s media center where Adult Basic Education is located. This program will be moved upstairs into a classroom will have access to a second room, as well. Community Education and Early Childhood administrative offices will be moved into the former media center space.

There are also plans for a conference and community room for meetings, events and parent discussion for parents taking Early Childhood Family Education and Early Childhood Special Education classes.