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'I think people are excited'

District Superinitendent Nick Ouellette shows school board members an area of the high school's construction zone. New classrooms, offices, and more are in the works. Gretta Stark / RiverTown Multimedia.1 / 2
Hudson School Board members viewed this and other temporary classrooms set up near the high school building, used while classrooms are under construction. Gretta Stark / RiverTown Multimedia. 2 / 2

On Monday, Dec. 18, the Hudson School Board started its meeting with a tour around the high school's construction zones.

School District Superintendent Nick Ouellette lead board members through the high school's construction zones, explaining the status of each area.

One of the first areas visited was the auditorium, which was then nearly done, and has since been completed enough to be used.

A ramp was added for handicap accessible access to the stage. Sound panels, etc. were added to the ceilings and walls to improve acoustics. Some panels on the stage floor were set to be replaced. Railing detail was changed on two "Romeo and Juliet" balconies in the auditorium. Some removable chairs are also included in the front of the auditorium so that for flexibility. The sound and control room was also updated.

Backstage, the dressing rooms had new dimmable LED lights installed around the mirrors and the scene shop was expanded.

The space outside the auditorium will have an 11-by-22-foot projection screen, and space for a temporary stage. About 1,500 people will fit in the space in rows of chairs, when done. A full sound system will also be connected.

A cafeteria space will also be usable for large group instruction, such as study hall.

Construction recently also began on the new choir room. Temporary walls have been setup. Ouellette said it will be ready in about two months. Meanwhile, the room is carefully sealed to contain dust, etc. during construction.

A new band room is also under construction.

The new edition also includes classroom space and office space for teachers. The current design allows for one classroom and one office per teacher. However, in the future, teachers could check out office spaces for a period of time instead, as a more efficient use of space, should that be necessary in the future.

"The building has a tremendous amount of flexibility," said Ouellette in an interview Friday. He said the building is able to accommodate future needs, as well as present ones.

New areas under construction also include some new public bathrooms, new exterior doors that are more energy efficient, motion-activated lights, a new locker bay, which could be converted to classrooms someday if needed, the west gym, and more.

The school board also visited a series of temporary classrooms where students have been studying during construction. They are fully wired with electricity and internet, security cameras, and the school's bell system.


Like any project, there have been challenges, Ouellette said.

It's been a challenge to continue construction while having some 2,100 people going through the building on a daily basis, including students and staff.

"Trying to do all those things, keep things moving, trying to mitigate impact to education, make sure that we're always keeping safety at the forefront of what we're doing, are the biggest challenges," Said Ouellette.

He said with the economy "heating up" there's so much ongoing construction, there are sometimes labor shortages.

Another challenge has been unexpected expenses. For example, one wall that was removed was going to be saved. It turned out that a set of exterior doors had been bricked in.

Another surprise was a fire door the district had planned to refurbish and reuse. It turned out they weren't able to reuse the door, and instead had to buy a new one, taking the price tag for that part of the project from $5,500 to more than $60,000.

Fortunately, Ouellette said, the district planned head, and kept about 5 percent of the referendum funds—around $4 million—as a contingency fund to deal with the unexpected.

Some unexpected things meant no additional cost to the district.

When the high school track surfacing was installed, the color didn't darken to the shade specified by the district. The contractor resurfaced the track. As workers began this, they realized the inside curb of the track on the corners wasn't in quite the right location. So, that had to be fixed as well.

All of this was done at the contractor's expense, Ouellette said. Any time something isn't done correctly, it is done at the expense of the contractor. It's the construction manager's job, he said, to ensure things are done correctly, or call contractors back to correct anything that needs correcting.


"I'm pretty proud of the progress we've made so far," Ouellette said.

He said the community and students seem to be pretty happy with it as well.

The community has given "overwhelmingly positive" feedback.

"I think people are excited," he said.

When all is done, Ouellette said it's going to add between 120,000 and 140,000 square feet to the building.

He tells people the stadium is nice, but "the real gem" is the school building.

"It should be second to none in the state," he said. "I'm excited for next fall when it's probably 95 percent complete when we open our doors, and getting to see what people's reactions are when they're coming in to the new space."

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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