Members of the East Grand Forks School Board, Superintendent Mike Kolness and Principal Brian Loer braved subzero temperatures and wind chill Thursday morning to celebrate finishing the structural phase of construction at Senior High School with a topping-out ceremony.

Construction workers raised the final steel beam of the project’s structural phase into place. The beam had been signed by students, teachers and staff and will remain visible after the additions to the school are complete.

“Thank you to the citizens of East Grand Forks,” School Board Chairman Tony Palmiscno said to the small crowd. “This is a salute to all of us.”

Construction project manager Tom McDonald explained that the tradition of a topping-out ceremony dates several centuries back to Scandinavia, intended to bring peace to tree-dwelling spirits disturbed during a construction process and instill positive spirits in the building for the future.

In the U.S., the tradition has expanded to include draping the American flag over the steel beam to show patriotism.

Work on the $20.6 million project began last May. The additions include facilities for physical education and locker rooms, fine arts and STEM programs. The construction is expected to finish next fall.

“We’ve met a milestone on this project,” McDonald said. “We want to take a moment to celebrate that.”