School site sign

A sign along Bixby Road, just north of Highway 14, marks the site of the new Owatonna High School. The district officially closed on the purchase of 65 acres of the Rypka family farm Dec. 27, using a $2 million donation from Federated Insurance. In addition, the family donated a portion of its land, meaning the new facility is slated to go in on 91 acres in total and is now ready to undergo the necessary traffic and environmental studies. (Bridget Kranz/People’s Press)

OWATONNA — One week after the Owatonna Public School Board accepted monetary and land donations from Federated Insurance and the Rypka family for construction of a new high school, the district formally closed on the site Dec. 27.

According to Director of Finance and Operations Amanda Heilman, Federated covered $2 million of the ultimately $2.14 million purchase price of 65 acres of the Rypka family farm. The district paid the remainder, and received a donation of an addition 26.1 acres from the Rypkas, themselves. Located near the intersection of highways 14 and 218, the site on the south side of town ended up being three acres larger than anticipated.

With the land now in its control, Heilman said the district is ready to start moving forward with an environmental assessment worksheet and traffic study.

“We’re getting quotes right now for those pieces and they’ll be put in place very soon,” she said, adding that the two studies would probably finish up sometime this spring.

Results of both will be included when the district applies for necessary permits with the City of Owatonna before breaking ground.

According to Superintendent Jeff Elstad, Federated had done an initial environmental assessment of its own before selection of the site was finalized. The required worksheet to be completed by the district will include things like soil conditions, water resources and surrounding land use.

As far as the traffic study, Heilman said the district would be able to team up with the city and county, both of which are planning on conducting surveys of their own in the coming months. She explained that the two agencies will be putting out a formal request for proposals; after a joint vendor is selected, she said the district will be responsible for financing its own portion of the study.

In addition to the $2 million Federated provided for the land sale, the Owatonna-based insurance company also transferred $20 million in cash over to the district, which will be placed in the bond fund and used throughout the duration of the project, according to Elstad.

Although the business has now completed both donations, laid out in an Aug. 15 memorandum of understanding, Heilman noted that the district will keep in touch with Federated going forward.

“They’re always a valued partner and they’ve always supported education in this community, so we’ll work with them on the donation side,” said Heilman. Mainly, she said this would involve figuring out the entitled naming rights at some point down the line. “It’s not going to be named Federated High School, but there’ll be other parts of the building we’ll look at.”

Due to a codified naming policy adopted by the board last spring, rights are discussed when a one-time gift exceeds $500,000. According to Elstad, there was no formal procedure in place before last year.

Fellow locally-based businesses Viracon and Wenger Corporation have also pledged in-kind support, but Heilman said the board has yet to formally accept these two donations. With the former providing architectural glass at cost and the latter intending to give roughly $2 million in equipment and materials, Heilman said it made sense to sign off on these later on in the design-and-build process.

As the district gets underway with the environmental and traffic studies, a core planning team of 26 community members, district staff, parents and students is working with Wold Architects and Engineers to come up with an initial schematic for the facility, which will likely be complete by this summer.

The district has also entered into a three-year, $4.2 milllion contract with Kraus-Anderson, who will serve as its construction manager. Currently, the plan is to break ground in Spring 2021 and have the new facility complete by Fall 2023.

Reporter Bridget Kranz can be reached at 507-444-2376. Follow her on Twitter @OPPBridget. ©Copyright 2019 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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