Scott Hogen – Mankato Area Public Schools
When Thanksgiving 2023 came to the Hogen household in Mankato, Minnesota, there were many things Scott Hogen was thankful for, including the vote earlier that month that saw residents approve a $105 million bond for Mankato Area Public Schools for various projects that will set the district up for future success.
“The vote was a win for our district, but most importantly, it was a big win for our students, our faculty and our staff,” Hogen says.
As the district’s director of facilities and safety, Hogen oversees work at 18 schools serving over 8,100 students. There are 24 buildings, many of which will receive upgrades courtesy of the bond vote.
For months before the vote, district officials campaigned and tried to provide the public with as much information as possible about what the money would be used for. A second bond asking for $15 million for stadium improvements across the district was not approved—Hogen says those upgrades and renovations will be addressed again.
“We held family nights about projects planned for each school, principals met with families, and our communications did a lot of outreaches on social media,” he says.
Overall, the $105 million will fund needed security upgrades at 10 schools, and some spaces across the district will be redesigned to create more flexible learning spaces. The district wants its buildings to provide a modern educational experience for teachers and students, and unique spaces are a part of the top-quality learning environment the Mankato Area Public Schools promises its community.
Committed to education
There were several projects shovel-ready when voters went to the polls in early November—it is a calculated risk taken by the district that required significant investment into architectural and engineering work. But Hogen says that was money well spent.
Four projects will be out to bid by the end of 2023, and the final two undertakings for the first phase of construction should be ready for RFPs in January. Prioritizing when certain projects would begin happened earlier this year, Hogen says.
The first project will complete the district’s new early childhood center. Work began two years ago, and the final phase is finishing the site. Hogen says the community strongly supports early childhood programming, but there isn’t enough space to accommodate the students.
Dakota Meadows Middle School is getting a new competition pool to replace one at a different school. The project also includes a new gym, multipurpose space and storm shelter. Additionally, the school will get a secure front entrance that will require relocating the front office.
The other big project is at West High School, which will get a new secure entrance and a three-story addition to the building. The front office will be relocated to the first floor, and the two stories above will be used for educational space. A new competition gym is also being built that will have a new wrestling room, storm shelter and new locker rooms. The existing gym will be converted into a fine arts space.
“Because of the size of that project, we’re working through various timelines and what to do with classes while we’re under construction,” Hogen says. “Doing this work with little disruption to the students and teachers is most important.”
Security and other improvements
In addition to more noticeable enhancements at schools across the district, secure entrances are being created at three schools. Those projects involve more construction and will end with more office space and repurposing of the old offices for special educational use at each facility.
Five more projects that were not shovel-ready when the bond passed will require more design work to be completed throughout 2024. Across the district, $4 million is also being invested in cybersecurity at all facilities. With continued cyberattacks on schools, the district is investing in protecting student data.
The challenges of doing these projects include dealing with continued but improving supply chain issues. That means Hogen and his team are ordering transformers and switchgear now because they won’t be delivered for about a year.
“We’re going through each project and identifying the equipment we’ll need to order now so we’ll have them for projects getting started in 2025,” he says.
Whether the project is building a new pool, relocating a front office or improving campus security, Hogen says the goal is always the same.
“This all goes back to supporting kids and creating an environment where they can continue to learn and excel,” he proudly says.
Supporting his community
Hogen can trace his interest in building, fixing and maintaining things to his youth. He grew up in New Ulm, Minnesota, with a family that owned a large greenhouse nursery that was next door to a dairy farm. If something broke, he helped fix it—he also helped build sheds and buildings on both properties.
“That is where I got my initial sense of the importance of care and maintenance,” Hogen recalls.
His first experiences in the field came during various roles spread over 16 years for New Ulm Area Catholic Schools. From there, he spent another 17 years at New Ulm Public Schools and joined Mankato Area Public Schools in his current role in 2014.
While admittedly on the back end of his career, Hogen says he’s not ready to hang up his proverbial tool belt just yet. He is working on grooming his successor while monitoring the upcoming projects. He won’t see them all completed, but he hopes there is an opportunity to serve as a consultant to ensure he’s still providing expert advice and using the knowledge and skills he’s gained over the 40-plus years.
“My goal is always to leave something better than it was when I arrived,” Hogen says. “I think I’ve done that throughout my career, and when I look back, I think I’ll feel the same way about my work in Mankato, too.”
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. II 2024 Edition here.
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