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$6 million gift for SCSD

School board, Gerdin Family Foundation announce contribution to build high school addition
This rendering depicts a proposed addition to Solon High School to be financed by the Gerdin Family Foundation. This view, from the southwest, shows a new media center on the south end of the addition, which includes a practice gymnasium and a bigger weight room. (courtesy Solon Community School District)

By Doug Lindner
Solon Economist
SOLON– It is a massive contribution.
An estimated $6 million addition to Solon High School will be built by the Gerdin Family Foundation.
The addition, which includes a practice gymnasium, expanded weight room and the completion of the elevated walking track eliminated from the original construction, was announced at a special meeting of the Solon Community School District (SCSD) Board of Education Monday, Feb. 13, in the lobby of the recently-completed Solon Center for the Arts.
“We’re happy to fill a need in the Solon school district,” Mike Gerdin said. “We’ve all been a part of the community for basically our whole lives.”
Following the conclusion of the meeting, SCSD Superintendent Davis Eidahl broke the news to the entire high school student body at an assembly in the Center for the Arts auditorium.
It is the second, and by far the largest, donation the family of Russ and Ann Gerdin has made to the Solon district. In 2011, the Gerdin Family Foundation pledged $400,000 toward the completion of the district’s Outdoor Events Center (OEC).
According to Eidahl, members of the family approached the district in spring of 2016 with the idea of helping support an identified need in the district.
At the time, he said, construction of both a new middle school and the Center for the Arts was underway, as was planning for a fourth attendance center.
“We turned our attention to the high school,” Eidahl said. When the high school was built 15 years ago, he noted, portions of the design were eliminated to cut costs.
Since the completion of the building, enrollment and course offerings have increased, as have the number of extracurricular activities and participation in them, he said.
“Because of this, we identified the high school as our most immediate need,” he concluded.
Improvements will include a remodeling of the main entrance to bring all traffic through the office; an expansion of the commons area into the current media center area; additional bathrooms to serve the commons; two added classrooms; a practice gymnasium; a new weight room; the expansion of the wrestling room; and the addition of an elevated walking trail.
Construction will begin immediately following the conclusion of the current school year, Eidahl said, with interior renovations completed by fall and the addition open for the beginning of school in the fall of 2018.
“This project, once completed, in addition to our recently-completed Center for the Arts, will provide our students, staff and community a high school that will rival any in Iowa,” Eidahl said.
He thanked the members of the Gerdin family for their generosity and stated the district is blessed to have such support.
“This project continues the commitment of the Solon community providing our students the very best education and experiences in and outside the classroom,” Eidahl said. “It’s just great to be a Spartan.”
Board member Rick Jedlicka also expressed his appreciation to the members of the Gerdin family in attendance.
“I just want to say how thankful I am of your willingness to share with us what your visions were but also to listen to what our needs were,” Jedlicka said.
Jedlicka and board member Jim Hauer (members of the board’s facilities committee), along with Eidahl, worked with the family to develop the project over the course of months.
Designs for the project were on display at the meeting and were reviewed by the district’s architect, Craig Schwerdtfeger of Struxture Architects in Waterloo.
The new practice gymnasium, media center and weight room will be a part of an addition to the west end of the current high school, Schwerdtfeger explained. The existing luxury vinyl flooring in the commons and hallways will be replaced with terrazzo similar to the Center for the Arts.
“Which is pretty much a lifetime floor,” Hauer commented.
The exterior will mimic the Center for the Arts, Schwerdtfeger said.
The exercise track, which Hauer said would be open to the public at certain times, will feature a rubberized surface and will be approximately a 10th of a mile long.
“That’s something the family really wanted to make sure that was included,” Hauer said.
The additional classrooms were not included for capacity issues, Eidahl said, but were a need identified in part as a response to next generation science standards.
“In order to meet all those requirements, plus continue to offer the variety of electives that we do, additional classroom space was going to be needed, regardless of enrollment,” he said.
Board president Dick Schwab said while the high school is not at its capacity, additional space for classroom expansion still exists.
“Right now, we’re over capacity on our athletics weight training,” Schwab said. “That room is just way, way too small. And then as everyone knows in Solon, there’s never enough gymnasium space.”
Along with addressing a secure entrance and providing added classrooms, he said, the district will be able to check off three major concerns with the building.
And with more and more students taking advantage of the Kirkwood Regional Academy, Jedlicka said, the high school should be in good shape from a capacity perspective.
“We are very, very grateful to the Gerdin foundation, the Gerdin family for making this happen,” Schwab said at the end of the meeting. “The school board has committed to not be a good school district, but be a great school district. This kind of contribution really advances that significantly.”