ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — It's been decades in the making, but soon the new Tech High School will be ready for students.

"The students are coming Sept. 3, like it or not," said Principal Charlie Eisenreich on an Aug. 22 media tour of the new St. Cloud school district high school.

About 20 years ago, Eisenreich served on a task force that looked at options for a new school.

"We've been talking about building a new Tech High School for that long," he said.

Three years after voters approved the $104.5 million project and two years after construction started, the 320,000-square-foot building is nearing completion.

Teachers started unpacking boxes mid-August and the student orientation day was last Tuesday. The first day of school for freshmen and new students is Sept. 3, and the first day for all other students is Sept. 4, St. Cloud Times reported.

The building was designed by Cuningham Group in collaboration with IIW-Minnesota.

"I always like to talk about the site," said David Leapaldt, architect with IIW-Minnesota. "This is one of the things that makes Tech High School unique. The site is unmatched."

The 69-acre site, southeast of Stearns County Road 74 and 33rd St. S, is bound by protected woodlands to the north and a natural city park to the east.

Students and families entering the school will drive past the woodlands owned by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and over a trout stream.

"That will always remain natural," Leapaldt said of the protected trout stream.

"The other piece of the site that is unique in addition to the trout stream is that we have a water table that rises and goes down all at the same time," Leapaldt added. "And it isn't restrained in any way so we had to design the site to allow that to happen without causing any disruption to the building or to the site itself."

Architects accomplished this through the use of rain gardens, native landscaping and permeable pavers in the parking areas that collect runoff.

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"100% of the storm water is managed on the site," Leapaldt said.

The native landscaping also benefits rusty patch bumble bees, northern long-eared bats and Blanding's turtles, all of which are protected species found on the site.

The school replaces Technical High School, which opened in 1917 and was built to accommodate 600 students, the Times reported in its series, Tech at 100.

The school featured a 50-by-70 foot gymnasium with bleachers to accommodate 200 spectators, a commercial department with an accounting room and typewriting room, and a large agricultural department where students learned about seed germination and animal husbandry.

With equipment and the site, the school cost about $230,000. The district expanded the school in 1938, 1955, 1963 and 1975.

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When it was built, Technical High School was state-of-the-art and named for its many students who went there to learn technical trades.

The new school, named to reflect the school's longtime nickname of Tech, similarly spotlights the learning style of the day: It features visible learning spaces designed to be flexible and multipurpose. It also integrates career and technical education labs throughout the school, instead of hiding them away from other classrooms.

The building's facade also features granite as a nod to the city's history; all the granite on the building's exterior was excavated from a local quarry about 10 miles from the site.

The prominent entrance also features wooden accents to highlight the new school's place nestled among trees, parkland and fields.

Tech's first yearbook featured prose written by 1921 graduate Agnes Alexander. It described the then-new Technical High School — but could also be shared again as the new Tech opens its doors.

"And so this beautiful Technical High School was erected upon one of the beauty spots in the city," Alexander wrote. "Its granite pillars mark the entrance to an edifice wherein youth may drink its fill at the fountain of learning. It is a preparation for beginning the great business of life."


Information from: St. Cloud Times, http://www.sctimes.com

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