District Breaks Ground on New High School Building

From left, Karen, Dave and Sammie Gehrls discuss plans for a new high school building that will be open for Sammie's senior year -- cr. Elizabeth Ivy Hawkins

Allen Kirshbaum is the new pastor at Spirit of Life Lutheran Church in Caledonia. He and his family — wife Karrie and 2-year-old daughter Eli — recent transplants from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, attended the groundbreaking for a new public high school building.

“It feels good to live in a place where I know kids have nice facilities and an environment that I know will offer good educational opportunities,” Kirshbaum said. “That’s not always been the case for me, and it’s not something to be taken for granted.”

August Ballot Request: Non-homestead 18-mill renewal
For: Operations
Voters said: YES: 3,213/No: 1,722 Approval of Caledonia’s non-homestead operating millage maintains the current levy of 18 mills and extends it through 2020. The levy is a zero-increase extension of taxes on businesses and second homes, such as vacation homes and rentals, and does not include primary residences. The renewal will raise approximately $8.1 million in 2016.

Caledonia Community Schools, like the city and townships it serves, is drawing a lot of interest from incoming families and is in need of facilities and infrastructure upgrades, district officials say.

Fortunately for the schools, staff and student population, the community is responding. Nearly 78 percent of voters this August approved a $41 million millage extension, $28 million of which will go to high-school upgrades that will be completed in fall 2017.

Nearly 100 people attended the afternoon groundbreaking ceremony at Caledonia High School, 9050 Kraft Ave. SE.
“This is a unique (school) staff that truly wanted to ramp up for 21st century learning,” said Steve Signor, project architect with GMB Architects + Engineers. Lakeshore Construction will manage the project.

District Superintendent Randy Rodriguez said the existing high school building was planned for 1,200 students and currently accommodates approximately 1,450. By 2020, administrators anticipate 1,800 students at the expanded high school.

But construction will be designed around more than numbers.

“We’re looking at a lot of ways people are engaging, and not just in high schools but at the college level and in the corporate environment,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve organized what we’ve observed around three primary themes: collaboration, flexibility and integration.”

The questions concerning how students most effectively interact, learn and flourish in a pleasing environment have led the design direction, resulting in plans for wider entry doors on classrooms that will facilitate group work in adjacent common spaces, as well as moveable walls that can lead to combined classroom experiences.

“We can teach in different spaces for different purposes,” he said. “We have tiered classrooms that will allow three classes at a time.

Added Rodriguez: “Teachers can teach from all around the room. There’s a greater ability to interact, but also to monitor and ensure everyone is getting the attention they need.”

While walls can move to allow a physics class to join an industrial arts or engineering class discussion, the district has opted to move slower intonew technologies.

“We’re still not a ‘bring your own device’ district, for instance, and we don’t plan to be any time soon, anyhow,” Rodriguez said. “We want to ensure that the advances we make can be effectively implemented and represent a high-value change for the district and the community.”

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New High School to Accommodate 1,200

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