Existing Owatonna High School to be demolished partially

The “Wall of Fame” mural that displayed in the commons above the cafeteria is now the division point for the space.
The “Wall of Fame” mural that displayed in the commons above the cafeteria is now the division point for the space.
Raeghen Murry

The demolition of the old high school is in full swing. The entire G wing where science and math classes used to be held is completely down and destruction of the “ ‘21 Building” will commence on January 21. This is the most historic area of the building as it is the face of our old high school. The pillars watched as thousands of students walked in and out of the building each day. These pillars stood for over 100 years and will never be forgotten by many alumni who have walked through them. 

Although the pillars couldn’t be salvaged, the district was able to preserve the two original lamp posts from the front of the building and install them in the plaza just outside the Foundation Room at the new OHS. They also salvaged the OHS crest that was above the main doors and are hoping to hang them in the plaza as well. As for the rest of the equipment that was left in the building, the school held three public auctions where community members had an opportunity to bid and purchase what was left.

Even though part of the building has been demolished, it will always hold great memories as some parts of the building are still going to stay up including outdoor areas. Director of Facilities Mr. Bob Olson said, “I am very excited with the plans and how we will utilize the space we are keeping. Not only

Walking through remnants of the old OHS.
(Raeghen Murry )

is it going to give us better and more efficient building usage, but we will be able to sell two properties that we are currently using for the district office and the maintenance facility. Our gymnasts have never had a space of their own. So I am super excited for them to not have to rent and share space any longer.” 

The three-story C plaza is currently being remodeled and will house the district office sometime in early July next summer. The gymnasium will permanently house the Owatonna High School Gymnastics Team, which should be ready for the team by the next season. The agriculture building will be remodeled to house our district maintenance staff and equipment. The school district is still going to keep the stadium, track, south fields and tennis courts for middle school athletics. 

The new district office is being renovated right now. The sheetrock is going up and paint will be applied to the walls when finished. Superintendent Jeff Elstad said, “(Construction workers) are really utilizing the allotted time to complete that part of the project.” It should all be completed by the start of January 2024 and will open in late July 2024.

The school board assigned a task force of community members to put out requests for a proposal on what to do with the high school. This was ongoing for about two years, not just in Owatonna, but outside communities as well. Nobody could confirm funding to purchase the high school for two years, so the school board decided to tear it down. It was just too big of a financial burden for anybody to take on. The school district was paying $35,000 a month for bills connected to the school. Supt. Elstad said, “This was far too large of a burden to keep with the school.”

Although it was a tough decision to tear the school down, the task force decided it was in the best interest of everyone to tear down parts of the high school and move on.

Originally published in the January Print Edition