Myers-Wilkins Elementary Nears Completion

Duluth News Tribune
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myers wilkins elementary
Myers-Wilkins Elementary

Duluth, MN — The opening of Myers-Wilkins and Congdon Park elementary schools Sept. 9 marks the end of several years of Duluth school district Red Plan work, which for many schools required shuffling students and teachers to different buildings.

Congdon Park and Grant Elementary, as Myers-Wilkins was known at the time, were two of those schools. Congdon Park students went to Woodland Middle School last year and Grant students joined those at Nettleton Elementary in 2010.

“This year, I’ll be excited to focus on what’s going on on the inside and not the thought of ‘we have to move again,’ ” said Congdon Park Principal Kathi Marshall, who spent nearly two decades at Nettleton before coming to Congdon Park three years ago. “It’s going to be wonderful to have a building that is up to date.”

Nearly 1,000 students in all will fill the halls of the renovated schools, both of which received new additions and updates and retained many historic features.

Each school was to have opened in 2011 with five other new or renovated schools, but work was delayed in part because revised, more expensive plans needed state education department approval. The Red Plan ultimately cost $315 million.

“There were tight timelines for these schools,” said Kerry Leider, property and risk manager for the district.

The cost increases — which came about because of the desire for more equity among the elementary schools — caused delays in bidding and construction when a new plan for those schools was made. And plans for where Congdon Park students would go during construction changed, further altering that project’s timeline, Leider said.

On top of that, Myers-Wilkins is running nearly a month behind its new schedule because of the discovery of an old dump underground that needed to be removed to make way for the addition.

Any time you work with old buildings, Leider said, “you find a few surprises.”

Here is a look at the buildings and their features.

Myers-Wilkins Elementary

  • Renovation budget: $20 million.
  • Total square feet: 85,281. Of that, 34,879 square feet is new and includes 11 classrooms, a larger gym, cafeteria and media center.
  • The original Grant Elementary was built in 1918 at 37,164 square feet. There were small additions in 1982, 1991 and 1993.
  • Window replacement and tuckpointing wasn’t done; that work has been moved to the district’s 10-year plan.
  • The school now has 27 new or updated classrooms, plus two rooms each for Head Start, early childhood special education and multipurpose use, and one each for music, art, large-muscle movement and a computer lab.
  • The old gym has been separated into two rooms: one side is a classroom and one side is the music room, both with windows. The acoustics are as good as those in the music rooms at the middle schools because of the height.
  • The cafeteria, which opens up off the secure entryway near the playground and drop-off areas, has the old Grant entrance on one wall: an ornate concrete archway that will serve as a place for art created by students.

Principal Stephanie Heilig said she and the school staff have been patiently waiting for the school to open, and worked to ensure it was one that the community could use along with the students.

“We weren’t going to settle,” she said. “It just took us all a long time of working together to really get a school we could embrace. I believe they have done a really outstanding job.”