Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Community celebrates new school


September 7, 2017

Lois E. Johnson

The ribbon is cut by Superintendent Robert Indihar to open the new pre-K through grade 12 Moose Lake Community School on Thursday. From left are elementary Principal Kraig Konietzko; National Honor Society president Kade Danelski; Sydney Timonen, class of 2023; Shari Anderson, 1982 Moose Lake High School graduate, holding Mallory Timonen, class of 2033; Supt. Indihar; high school Principal Billie Jo Steen; Moose Lake School Board Chair Steven Blondo; and board members Kris Lyons, Lisa Anderson-Reed, Julie Peterson and Jerry Pederson. Board member Jamie Jungers was unable to attend.

The ribbon was cut and the new Moose Lake Community School was opened to all who came to walk through the halls, explore the different amenities, tour the classrooms and meet teachers during the August 31 grand opening event.

First, visitors were invited to the gym for a short program.

The program opened with a multi-generational band playing the National Anthem.

Superintendent Robert Indihar told the audience this was the official close of the old school and opening of the new school. He then introduced Moose Lake City Administrator Tim Peterson.

"From the perspective of the city, how our community appears and the services that we provide are all major draws for potential new home buyers, employees and perspective businesses," Peterson told the audience. "With the recent additions and renovations to the hospital, the beautiful gardens and parks, the brand new highway that runs from end to end of our city, our community truly shows off the care we all put into our city.

"They say the kitchen is the heart of the home, but I assure you that the heart of a city is its school. Thanks to the entire school board, community members, teachers, contractors and everyone else involved, we have a strong and beautiful heart to our community.

"As an interested member of this community, I set out to see if school facilities have any impact on the performance of their students. According to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, it was found that many building features do have an impact on our kids. Things like building age, climate control, air quality, lighting and acoustics all play into student achievement. Teachers can also be impacted, with their learning environment affecting teacher attitudes and performance. It is also shown that communities that take an active role in their schools have a better understanding of teaching and learning. Our community has certainly shown that it wants to have an active role in our school, and you should all be proud of that.

"On behalf of the City of Moose Lake, welcome to our new school. It is truly something we can all be proud of."

Moose Lake School Board Chairperson Steven Blondo was next to speak.

"I saw students beaming with pride yesterday as they came in the front door and saw the large moose head filled with agates on the floor," said Blondo. "They went on to notice all of the little (and the big) details of their new school.

"Teachers eagerly welcomed students and parents into their classrooms - showing off all of the technology they will use to make learning fun and relevant to the 21st century that we are in.

"Parents were relived to see a modern and safe school, one that will protect their loved ones and return healthy kids home at the end of the school day.

"I want to point out the Early Childhood wing. What a marvelous job Julie (Duesler) and her staff did. Grant money was received to build additional space and a program that is absolutely top notch. I would even venture to say we are leaders in Early Childhood in our area. Something we can not only be proud of as a community, but also something the State of Minnesota can look to as how to support their mission for pre-K education.

"Remember, the building is a place to learn. Our teachers and staff have always made our school shine with pride. The new school will continue to strengthen our pride as a community. There have been and will continue to be bumps in the road, but next week everyone from our seniors (the class of 2018) through new Early Childhood kids (class of 2035) will enjoy this space, continue to learn new things, succeed and find 'Excellence for Life!' Be proud and thank you!"

Indihar wrapped up the speeches by listing the sequence of events that led up to the grand opening.

"I'm going to start five years ago in June when the flood happened," he said. "Tim Caroline and I were standing in the hallway, watching the water come in under the doors. Tim patted me on the back and said, 'Good luck, Bob.' See, I was taking over as superintendent the next week. The real amazing thing is that we got the school back together and started school on time in the fall of 2012.

"After the flood, the school board felt it was time to try for a bond for a new building. We had been through many failed building bonds. It always came down to the high tax impact that the bond created because of the fact that much of the land in Moose Lake is state land.

"During the fall of 2012 I received an unexpected call from Chuck Ehler, the superintendent of Rushford-Peterson. His school had gone through a similar situation of a flood and not being able to pass a bond. He asked me if Moose Lake would be interested in hiring Peg Larsen (a lobbyist) to see if we could get special legislation to help pass a bond. My board agreed to it.

"That year, I happened to be on a special legislative task force to look at how to get increased funding for maintenance for buildings. Because I was on this task force I was in contact with key legislators and was able to articulate Moose Lake's building issues. Probably the bigger deal was that I became friends with Greg Crow from the financial firm, Ehlers. He was a former legislator and became interested in our situation. He was the person who actually came up with the wording that went into the bill. He knew what would be the best language to put in to get the senators and representatives to agree that this was a worthy bill. Having Tony Lourey, Mike Sundin, Greg Crow and Peg Larsen helping us weave our way though the political jungle was amazing. After two years of trying, we successfully passed the bill to receive around 60 percent in state funding for our school. This was a miracle.

"I don't want to forget the community members behind the scenes who showed up to legislative hearings and gave the school support. There are many of them and we will have a dedication ceremony December 2 to thank all of the people who helped with this process.

"These people eventually formed the Vote Yes committee. Byron Kuster led the committee and was very actively promoting the bond that we decided to go after. We surveyed the community on what they would vote 'yes' for on a bond. I remember it was around $300 for a $150,000 house. When you work the numbers backward, this equaled to a $34.7 million bond.

"We hired ARI for our architects and Boldt as our construction managers. They helped us through the process of passing the bond. There were many meetings to show why this was the right time for a new building. The bond passed by a 2-to-1 margin. ARI designed this beautiful building and Boldt built it. We had a good working relationship. It took a little less than two years to build the building. This whole story culminates with today. We are finally in our new building. Wow! What a beautiful building we have now. I am very proud of this building and hope that you are as well. It will serve the community for years to come.

"I have reflected on this whole process of how this building came to be. I ask the following questions:

"Why did the building flood one week before I was to take over as superintendent?

"Why did I get put on the legislative task force where I met key people to write and help pass the legislation?

"How did Rushford-Peterson's misfortune play such a big part in Moose Lake's future?

"How could we pass a bond when one hadn't passed in many years?

"How about all of the citizens who backed this effort?

"How about the strong board that we had in place to take a risk to get legislation to pass the bond?

"The only answer I came up with to having all of the stars align is that it was meant to be. I think that it was our time.

"I feel very fortunate to be part of the Moose Lake community. Throughout this whole process the support from the residents was overwhelming. You people in the stands built this building. I would like to personally thank you for your support. Go and see the displays and talk with our board and teachers. See what your support bought. I think you will be amazed at our new building. Enjoy!"


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