Needed Upgrades At Wrenshall School Finishes, More Still To Come

The first stage cost more than $9 million and included adding a new HVAC system.

DULUTH, Minn. – The Wrenshall School has been getting some much-needed upgrades and now the first phase of the project is complete.

The pandemic forced students to learn from home for the last year.

Wrenshall school leaders took advantage of having an empty building to make the necessary changes.

The first stage cost more than $9 million and included adding a new HVAC system.

“The conditions were not great. It was not uncommon to have classrooms that were very overheated or very cold,” said Kimberly Belcastro, the superintendent for Wrenshall Public Schools.

Money to pay to fix up the school came mostly through public funding from the Minnesota department of Education and various grants covered the rest.

The director of buildings and grounds is happy to see the changes.

He remembers the challenges of using the old heating unit.

“On the old system, I had a couple of frozen pipes. I got those thawed out. I had frozen coils. This time around we had -34 degrees, these new boilers kept up and maintained heat in the building very well,” said Micael Smith.

Several classrooms in the school were also completely redone.

The superintendent says making the long-awaited changes is beneficial for everyone.

“Our students deserve it, our staff members deserve it. Really, the community overall could benefit too from having an updated school that families want to send their students to,” said Belcastro.

Getting the job done didn’t come without challenges.

“It’s a struggle to have adequate funding and to update facilities. What’s really hard is to update facilities you really have to have the voters approve it. That’s very difficult to do,” said Belcastro.

About half of the school’s students actually live in the Wrenshall community, while the rest reside outside of the area.

This can often times create setbacks when trying to get funding approved by voters.

“When it comes to passing a referendum, people that live in the community are the ones that vote for the referendums,” said Belcastro. “You end up with a complex situation on getting the support in order to update the school.

This challenge forced the school to find funding that did not need voters to pass.

The school plans to soon move on to phase two, which includes updating the gym and cafeteria.

This will cost an additional $4 million.

Phase Two is expected to be completed by August.

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