Minnesota School District Completes Pair of Projects

By Eric Althoff

LAKEFIELD, Minn.—Kraus-Anderson has finished up its work for the Jackson County Central Schools District on a new-build middle school and an elementary school renovation.

The $26 million, 84,000-square-foot Jackson County Central Middle School, designed by JLG Architects, entails new classrooms, kitchens, common areas, technology classrooms, music education areas, as well as a gymnasium. Construction commenced in March of 2021.

Kraus-Anderson has also finished renovating the adjacent Pleasantview Elementary School. The contractor’s work at the elementary school entailed air quality upgrades and necessary improvements to be in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

Both projects were funded thanks to a $35.4 million bond referendum that was passed by voters in November 2019 in order to meet upgrades throughout the district. The new technical classrooms are also meant to help students as they prepare for careers beyond the post-secondary educational paradigm.

Kraus-Anderson project manager Dustin Kempf spoke with School Construction News recently about the construction. Among the early issues, he said, was that when the project went out for bid in late 2020, contractors were “a little bit more hungry” for work, but the industry still hadn’t quite figured out how to operate as the covid-19 pandemic continued.

“It was fighting our way back from that,” Kempf said. The next big hurdle Kempf related was that the subcontractor that was scheduled to fabricate steel for the school’s construction suddenly went out of business.

“The day it was scheduled to get installed, we got a notice [that] their doors closed—and we found out they did not fabricate any of the steel,” he recalled. “Before we even had a chance to set the steel, we were already three to five months behind. We actually had to sub it out…knowing construction rebidding the job out can take four to six weeks, and that’s the best-case scenario.”

Kraus-Anderson was eventually able to source the necessary steel for the construction.

“The design company that we were working with for the steel, we kept them on because the fabricators subbed out the design part of it,” Kempf said. “The in-house engineering firm was…probably a 10- or 12-hour time difference…so most of our conversations had to be [done] very early in the [morning].”

Kempf added that the initial fire protection contractor also went into default, as did a tile contractor, requiring yet more rebids for subcontractors. All told, he believes the various delays resulted in the work being six months behind schedule. Nevertheless, his firm was able to get it all completed.

“We still feel supply chain issues,” he said. “I have to believe it’s going to improve. I don’t think there’s any way it can be sustained.”

Kraus-Anderson was founded in 1897 and is headquartered in Minneapolis.