A look at the future OHS

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Wold Architects

A rendering of the new Owatonna High School released in a presentation given to the Owatonna School Board on November 9. OHS students and staff look forward to moving into their new home in the fall of 2023. (Wold Architects)

Jonny Clubb, Writer

Beginning in the fall of 2023 OHS students and staff will be moving into a new building. The new high school project, whose bond was passed in November 2019, will be large enough to hold a student body of 1,600.  The new building, along with a new stadium and more adequate staff and student parking, will sit on an 88-acre piece of land just off 18th Street and near the intersection of Highways 14 and 218. The building itself will be 300,000 square feet and include state of the art learning facilities, as well as a 900-seat auditorium.

The new Owatonna High School will cost taxpayers $104 million, on top of the $22 million given by local businesses to lower building costs and the land donated by Federated Insurance.  According to the school district website, that price tag means that the average homeowner will pay about $16 per month for the duration of the bond. Among the many local businesses donating to the project are Viracon, Cybex, Wenger and Federated Insurance. OHS Principal Mr. Kory Kath said, “We’ll be working with Viracon for glass, as well as Cybex for equipment for the weight room and things like that. We’re also working with Wenger, and they’ve made a generous donation within the theater and fine arts department. Federated Insurance also donated a lot of money to the school.”

In addition to contributions from local businesses, there were donations from multiple local foundations. Kath said, “We had two new donations, one from the ISD 761 foundation, as well as one from the Owatonna Foundation. Those two groups have each donated $250,000 to create what we call the Foundation Room.” The Foundation Room will be located near the gyms and will open onto the football field.  It will serve as a multipurpose space, and have the ability to host banquets and community events while also being available for student use during the day.

In a presentation given to the Owatonna School Board on Nov. 9, the idea of “Learning Communities” was shared. This idea includes a few classrooms around an open area, and multiple “operable walls” to create flexible learning spaces. Principal Kath said, “The design is around the concept of a cul de sac. It’s going to be a large open space with classroom pods that are off of it, but they are all flexible. It’s going to be exciting for students to see that there’s going to be a ton of flexibility in their new school.” The biggest impact of learning communities will be on students. Freshman and member of the first graduating class of the new OHS Oran Dowling said, “Learning isn’t just about pen to paper. People around you and things around you can affect your learning pretty greatly.”

Learning isn’t just about pen to paper. People around you and things around you can affect your learning pretty greatly.”

— Oran Dowling

The new building will include many great features including 70 state of the art learning spaces, a much larger cafeteria and a main and auxiliary gym area that will provide four courts of space for physical education. There will also be a 900 seat auditorium and walking track included in the new building. The future OHS will provide a safe and comfortable environment for students, as well as many spaces for community use. The new building was designed by Wold Architects and will be built by Kraus Anderson Construction. In the most recent design different areas of the building are inspired by different parts of Owatonna. The commons are inspired by the river and downtown, learning communities are inspired by residential areas and athletic and performance sections are inspired by recreational areas. Mr.Kath said, “They’re looking at the commons as downtown Owatonna. When you look down Main Street Owatonna you see all these stores, you see all these windows that bring Owatonna to life. That’s going to be our school, you’re going to have a ton of windows off our commons area which will showcase student learning.”

If all goes according to plan OHS students and staff will be walking into a state-of-the-art building come the fall of 2023. With building set to commence in May of 2021 the project will take approximately 28 months and be completed in August of 2023 just in time for the 2023-2024 school year. Current high school freshmen are set to be the first graduating class in the spring of 2024. The new high school will contain many great features for the community to use and will propel students into the 21st century.