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Kelly Smith, Published September 14 2009

Davies principal plans for 2011 opening

The school won’t open until fall 2011, but already Davies High School Principal Jeff Schatz is busy preparing and planning for the big transition.

It’s his job to get everything in place – from the cardinal-red Eagles uniforms to the curriculum and school culture – by the time Fargo’s third high school opens its doors to a projected 1,100 students.

“I wish it was opening tomorrow,” he joked. “I see it as a fun challenge … to build something from ground zero.”

Schatz, a Fargo North High School graduate, is glad to be back in his hometown after 15 years as principal and assistant principal in Grand Forks, N.D.

Now he’s “getting up to speed” on the Fargo district and putting together a transition committee of district officials and principals to develop curriculum and staffing for when the school opens in two years.

Until then, the current seventh-, eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders who will be the school’s first students are getting into the Davies mindset.

Next year, fine arts programs and varsity sports teams for future Davies students will start up while they’re housed at South High School.

“They seem pretty excited,” Schatz said. “I’m sure there will be some issues of splitting kids. (But) they’re starting to take on that (Davies) pride.”

While Schatz is new to the district, he’s well aware of past public criticism of the district for building the $43 million third high school. Some have argued that the district didn’t need the school or criticized its location in south Fargo.

“It will take time for Davies to open and for those things to move on,” Schatz said. “Opportunities for students for their education are paramount and the reason Davies is being built.”

The building itself has made significant progress since spring.

Walls, parking lots and fences have sprung out of the site on 70th Avenue and 25th Street South, just south of Shanley High School and Sullivan Middle School. The football field is being seeded and the foundation of the track is set.

“We’re making pretty good progress,” said projects manager Dale Smith of Lee Jones and Son Construction in Fargo.

About 95 percent of the footings and foundation should be in by November so crews can work through the winter, he said.

The 275,000-square-foot school is on schedule to finish by fall 2011.As for flooding, Smith said there wasn’t any water on the site last spring. Plus, they’ve since built up the site another 4 feet.

“We’re above the flood stage,” Smith said. “We should be in good shape.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515