Pair of Northern Minnesota Schools Wraps Revamps

By Eric Althoff

ELY, Minn.—Architectural Resources, Inc. was tasked by Ely Public Schools to redesign aspects of the district’s Ely Memorial High School and Washington Elementary. Construction management and real estate development firm Kraus-Anderson recently completed the renovations required by the district, and personnel from the firm were anxious to discuss their work there.

The $21.43 million, 110,500-square-foot project at the two schools encompassed renovation of 71,000 square feet of existing space. The redesigned areas will now be home to a gym, music room, metal and wood shops, cafeteria, media center, and career and technical education (CTE) classrooms. The contractor has also added new locker rooms at the high school as well as an Early Family Childhood Education (ECFE) area at the elementary school. Both the high school and elementary school feature upgraded HVAC systems as well. Kraus-Anderson also installed a 40,000-square-foot commons that connects the elementary and high schools.

On the exterior, the builders demolished several older buildings, relocated a gas tank and vaporizer, and conducted other site improvements. However, perhaps the largest challenge outside the school buildings themselves was the blasting and removal of nearly 2,000 cubic yards of ledge rock, which had to be remediated before new utility lines could be installed.

Todd Erickson, Kraus-Anderson’s senior project manager, told School Construction News in a recent interview that the rock outcropping was discovered during the “summer push” as the contractor expedited getting as much work done as possible before the winter freeze.

“Blasting and excavating 1,700 cubic yards of rock to enable the placement of sewer and stormwater service was a definite budget hiccup—and a schedule concern,” Erickson said.

He added this was all on top of covid-19 issues as well as ongoing supply chain problems, particularly when it came to sourcing door frames. An anticipated 16 weeks for delivery turned into 18 months for the frames—and seven months for the overhead doors themselves to show up.

“We started submittals in May of 2021, got through submittals and finalized the door orders, and they actually got installed in June of 2022.”

Erickson added that despite the rather remote location of Ely, in far northeastern Minnesota, the community he and his firm worked in was close-knit. Furthermore, he said that the area around the school has been designated largely for canoes, rendering it rather quiet.

“It’s a very serene environment and it’s quite a getaway,” said Erickson, before adding that the winter months can be absolutely punishing. “We’re over 70 inches of snow already so far this winter season. We had 44.9 inches in December alone.”

Kraus-Anderson reports over $1 billion in K-12 projects in the past half-decade. The firm offers facility analysis and budget services in its school construction division. Kraus-Anderson is based in Minneapolis but has other offices across the Upper Midwest.