Wadena: The kids are movin' in


MPR Photo/Ambar Espinoza

Totaled: Wadena-Deer Creek High School

Make room, M State.

The high schoolers are coming over.

They’ve had no place to go ever since a June tornado totaled Wadena-Deer Creek High School, so officials at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Wadena have offered to lease them some space until they get their own.

Get used to it, students. Starting in early September, things will be a little cozy for the next two years.

The campus’ own tornado damage should be repaired and cleaned up by the end of this week, administrators say, so the complex is expected to be ready to accommodate the teens coming in.

M State suffered about $5 million in damage from the tornado, including extensive damage to the roof, a shattered skylight, minor structural damage to the windows, and minor water damage to up to 75% of the campus.

Luckily, the storm didn’t damage the expensive heating and ventilation network, science equipment and computer labs.

So how tight will it be?

Provost Cristobal Valdez said the one-story, 120,000-square-foot building complex, which normally houses about 700 students, should have enough space to accommodate the 350 or so high schoolers who roll in for classes.


Minnesota State Community and Technical College

M State had its own issues

Valdez said the students will be using 15-20 classrooms toward the center of the building, and the high school administration will use some office space in that area as well.

But he stressed that in the juggle to make things work, the university won’t be changing the times of any of the classes — just shifting the locations to different rooms.

The high schoolers will use general-education rooms and lecture halls, so the M State tech students — such as those in the cosmetology and line-worker programs — won’t have to share facilities.

The college will do some reconfiguring to handle the high school, such as: turning one big lab area into classrooms; putting up extra walls and a temporary hallway; and dividing some labs into multiple classrooms and a storage area.

Overall, plans show “we have the space” to hold all of the students, Valdez said. But the halls will be more hectic, with fewer empty spaces to sit and relax.

To keep the two groups separate, college officials are trying to give high schoolers their own section of the building, a separate entrance and a separate lunch schedule.

They might end up eating in the cafeteria while the college students take the student commons, and they might form two separate lines to get their grub.

Even though the high school keeps more of a morning-to-afternoon schedule and the college does have a sizeable evening schedule, the two groups can’t help but mix in places like the hallways and exteriors.

That raised a few eyebrows among parents of high schoolers, said Wadena-Deer Creek High School Principal Tyler Church.

“The big issue was younger students mixing with college students,” he said. “They thought of high school girls with college guys.”

To help keep things tame, though, school officials are trying to install a security officer.

So far, M State enrollment manager Lisa Erickson said, the runup has been a little difficult at times.

“When we had registration on campus, it was a little cramped,” she said. “But the students are at ease, and it’s nice for them to have an understanding of what kind of pickle we’re in.”