Kraus-Anderson completes construction of new Rock Ridge Career Academy High School

Kraus-Anderson Construction Company’s Duluth office has completed construction on Rock Ridge Career Academy High School, which utilizes a new model of education career pathways and opportunities for students to explore different occupations and identify potential careers.

The 280,000-square-foot school is part of Rock Ridge Public School’s extensive set of more than $190 million construction and demolition building projects. The high school is the only wall-to-wall career academy school north of the Twin Cities.

Historically, public education steered students toward four-year colleges and universities, a model that does not always meet the economic and career interests of students.  Instead, Rock Ridge’s career academy is uniquely designed to fit students’ individual interests and to provide opportunities to explore other options to better prepare them for after graduation. Partnerships with local businesses and organizations also will aid in highlighting future opportunities available in the Iron Range region.

The school offers distinct career tracks within three different academies, which are selected by individual students after a wide-ranging survey of experiences within the “Exploration Academy.”  The career tracks include: (1) Business Management, Administration, Arts, Communications and Information Systems; (2) Health and Human Services; and (3) Agriculture, Food, Manufacturing, Construction, Engineering and Science. 

Designed by Cuningham Group Architecture, alongside local firm DSGW Architects, the comprehensive $122 million career academy features an open and centralized main commons, hands-on learning studios and laboratory spaces, Career Technical Education (C.T.E.), carpentry, metals and automotive labs, culinary arts lab and Prostart restaurant management program,certifiednursing assistant skills (CNA) lab, media alcoves and exterior learning environments. In addition, the school includes a new pool and a gymnasium with indoor athletics and physical education features.

The new energy-efficient design provides a variety of scales of learning spaces to support individual study, small-group collaboration and large-group presentation.  Flexible furniture and space layouts allow the school to adapt to ever-changing education needs over time without undergoing expensive renovations.

The design of the building also maximizes natural light access with a visual connection to the stunning surrounding site, and showcases regional materials, such as weathering steel panels and exposed timber. 

The high school also includes five fully synthetic turf athletics fields, a new stadium complex with a running track, grandstands and press box, competition pool, three-station gym, nature trail, wetlands boardwalk, fitness center, performing arts center and music facilities. 

Construction began in August of 2020.

“Rock Ridge High School was built to be a world-class school. It was specifically designed for both direct instruction and project-based learning to flourish as teaching and learning tools in a career academy structure for all students,” said Dr. Noel Schmidt, superintendent of Rock Ridge Public Schools.  “It is no hyperbole to say that the community, teachers, and students can be proud of this extraordinary high school which will be the envy of many districts throughout the State of Minnesota and United States. It is that unique.”

In addition to the Career Academy High School, Kraus-Anderson is the construction manager on other notable projects for Rock Ridge Public Schools, designed and built around 21st century skills of critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, citizenship, character, entrepreneurship and global competence.

–  Laurentian Elementary, a new $34 million school serving pre-K to 6th grade students in Eveleth, Minn., was completed in the spring of 2022.  The new 89,000-square-foot school features new classrooms, a gymnasium with one regulation size court or two smaller courts, and an indoor playground in the main commons area.  The project also includes a multi-purpose athletic field, outdoor learning courtyard, playgrounds and a new main entrance canopy.

–  North Star Elementary School, a new $36.5 million, 70,000-square-foot elementary school in Virginia for 3rd to 6th grade students, will replace the current Roosevelt Elementary School.  Construction began in the fall of 2022 and is expected to be completed for the 2024-2025 academic year.

–  Demolition projects – The $5.5 million demolition of existing aged facilities is in progress and will be completed by fall of 2023

Kraus-Anderson also works with the school district to provide hands-on opportunities for its Construction Academy, part of Rock Ridge High School’s Tech Ed Department.  KA provides training and mentorship to instructors and students, who work collaboratively on a series of different construction builds, including athletic storage buildings, dugouts and press boxes. Contractors perform site work, masonry, concrete and electrical work, then the projects are turned over to students, who learn real-life skills and work safety, while gaining hands-on experience.