Crews from Gardner Builders recently broke ground on a major Cloquet construction project aimed at revamping the school’s career and technical education spaces.

The $1.7 million renovations are a major step in the district's efforts to expand class options for students interested in working in the trades, with construction funds coming from a $1.86 million bond received by the district.

According to officials, the bond will be paid for using existing school revenue and will not result in an additional burden on Cloquet taxpayers.

Once completed, the renovated space will house both CTE and art classes with the high school, providing students with upgrades like new computer and digital fabrication labs, fencing, storage and upgraded security measures.

Brick walls separating the woodshop and metal lab classrooms at Cloquet High School have been demolished and are set to be replaced with glass walls. (Izabel Johnson / ijohnson@pinejournal.com)
Brick walls separating the woodshop and metal lab classrooms at Cloquet High School have been demolished and are set to be replaced with glass walls. (Izabel Johnson / ijohnson@pinejournal.com)

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“We wanted to invest in a new space," said Dylan Carlson, Cloquet Public Schools director of facilities and grounds. “We’re investing in the trades."

While originally slated to start in early June, construction kicked off early on May 17, with a goal of being completed before the start of the upcoming school year.

Carlson shared that things have gone well so far, and the only concerns for delay are possible unforeseen problems that may be uncovered during demolition or backlogged waiting periods for materials.

“It’s unpredictable," he said. “You could have all the plans and drawings in the world and you can still run into something you didn’t plan for."

Carlson expressed gratitude for the custodial staff at the school, explaining that they helped to relocate classroom materials prior to construction.

While the auto shop at Cloquet High School is not included in the ongoing renovation project, it did receive a new car lift as a part of a statewide grant geared towards expanding career and technical education in school across Minnesota. (Izabel Johnson / ijohnson@pinejournal.com)
While the auto shop at Cloquet High School is not included in the ongoing renovation project, it did receive a new car lift as a part of a statewide grant geared towards expanding career and technical education in school across Minnesota. (Izabel Johnson / ijohnson@pinejournal.com)


In addition to the renovations, CTE classrooms will also feature new equipment and machines purchased by the district through a 2019 state grant geared toward expanding CTE programs in Minnesota schools.

“I think it’s great," Cloquet High School teacher Bret Gunderson said. “Students will be a lot more prepared."

Gunderson has been teaching CTE classes at the high school for 21 years and hopes that the changes will allow students to complete larger projects, such as saunas and trailers.

Because of this, Gunderson believes that more students will become interested in CTE classes once they see the new space.

Carlson echoed this idea, sharing that he believes the glass walls will allow for students to be exposed to classes that they may not have known about otherwise.

For example, students walking in the hallways will be able to see into parts of the CTE and art classrooms, which Carlson said might lead to a peak in interest.

In addition to upping student interest, Carlson also explained that the glass walls allow for more safety in the classroom by increasing teacher visibility.

This, along with new fencing and storage in the outdoor space between the auto classroom and the main building, will work to ensure that both students and their projects are more secure.

An employee from Gardner Builders works on-site of the classroom construction project at Cloquet High School on Thursday, May 27, 2021. (Izabel Johnson / ijohnson@pinejournal.com)
An employee from Gardner Builders works on-site of the classroom construction project at Cloquet High School on Thursday, May 27, 2021. (Izabel Johnson / ijohnson@pinejournal.com)

While the main focus of construction is CTE and art classes, they aren't the only ones experiencing change due to the project.

According to Carlson, the former art classroom space is set to be used as a new and improved special education classroom, allowing the multiple special education programs to share one central location.

Overall, Carlson believes the project will be very beneficial to both students and the community.