Nearing completion

Fort Dodge Middle School is two months from opening and less than a month from its first open house for students.

After 22 months, construction is wrapping up.

“We’ve still got a little bit to go,” Shane Albrecht, Fort Dodge Community School District construction manager, said. “Then we’ll have a one-year warranty period where we’ll help make sure everything stays functioning and stays working through the first year of school.”

Concrete will be poured for the drop-off area between the parking lot and the main entrance today.

Entering the school, students and visitors will find stained and polished concrete awash in natural light from the building’s many tall windows.

To the left is school administration and to the right is student services. Ahead is the media center, from which students will have a view of a specially preserved 100-year-old tree.

The first floor is composed of fifth- and sixth-grade pods; seventh- and eighth-grade pods are on the second floor.

Each pod, its own learning community, has its own color. Eighth grade, for instance, is gold.

“Inside (the pods), they don’t change. They’re all mirror images of one another,” Albrecht said. “They have the same key features, just different colors and accent walls.”

Each pod also has its own room to serve as collaborative space for teachers. There is space elsewhere for students to have “success planning.”

The school also boasts state-of-the-art environmental controls, which in the long-term will result in savings for the district. Lights are activated with motion sensors and can be programmed for up to five settings, and there is demand-based ventilation.

“One of the neat things about this school for energy savings and dollars, we have variable frequency drives which allows our different pieces of equipment to be full on or full off to ramp up as things are needed,” Albrecht said. “It’s very nice to have these features.”

There are four IT closets. One such room has 650 ports.

“This is just for the center section, area B of the building,” he said. “This is all the data for where our kids are hooking up different computers or cameras.”

Safety is also paramount. There are 72 cameras throughout the building, with a monitoring station attended by a liaison from the Fort Dodge Police Department, and many doors can only be opened by staff keycards.

Albrecht said he was proud to help build something that will benefit Fort Dodge and its students.

“It is a very wonderful thing for me to be out here and be a part of this thing, because this is going to be a great facility for the community and for our kids for a long time,” he said. “It’s a wonderful feeling to be a part of that and help in that process.”

Doug Van Zyl, FDCSD superintendent, said it was good to see the building nearly completed after years of development and construction.

“It is kind of bittersweet, because it’s fun to know this project is going on and know you have a hand in helping design what will be a long-lasting fixture in the community. That’s the bitter side,” he said. “The sweet side is knowing we’re going to have a facility our community and our kids are going to be able to use that has a lot of things in it that will help them become more successful educationally and hopefully benefits our community.”