Helmut Schmidt, Published December 15 2010
5-4 vote pushes Kennedy Elementary addition forwardA divided Fargo School Board voted 5-4 on Tuesday to hire an architect to prepare drawings for a potential six- or nine-room addition to Kennedy Elementary School, as well as to provide an estimate of costs.
Kevin Bartram of Fargo’s Mutchler Bartram Architects would be paid $15,000 to $20,000 for the work.
The motion surprised some board members during a discussion of enrollment management issues to be tackled at a Jan. 15 retreat.
Dinah Goldenberg offered the motion, saying that having the plans in hand makes it possible for the board to still build an addition in time for school next fall – if that looks to be the best choice to fix the space crunch at Kennedy.
“If we wait until after the retreat … that pushes everything back,” and takes away an addition as an option for fall 2011, she said.
Rick Steen said an addition would get Kennedy’s fifth-graders back into the elementary. They are now at Discovery Middle School.
“We’ve allowed the district to do what we tried to get away from 10 years ago,” he said. “In my mind, we never should have allowed our fifth-graders to get moved around.”
But, the potential cost of an addition, $500,000 to $1 million, was too much for some.
“It’s just not in our budget,” John Strand said. “It’s taking us down a path I’m not comfortable with.”
Strand said he wanted the board to get back to working on community engagement.
That was something in Linda Coates’ mind, too.
“I think we’ve all been getting pretty strong reaction that people want genuine input,” she said.
Paul Meyers said the cost of getting the bid drawings also seemed high.
“That’s two-thirds of a teacher’s salary for a year, just so we can get some information,” Meyers said.
President Jim Johnson said the work will nail down the costs of the project, and will be valid for whenever the board decides to expand the school.
No action will be taken at the retreat, he said.
Voting to get the drawings were Goldenberg, Steen, Coates, Rusty Papachek and Robin Nelson. Voting against were Strand, Meyers, Johnson and Kris Wallman.
Johnson said the retreat will help the board focus on the best alternatives to addressing enrollment problems, whether it’s crowding at schools in the south, or underutilization elsewhere. After that will come a public engagement campaign, he said.
In other business, the board selected two firms to sell Woodrow Wilson School and 50 acres of land near Davies High School along 25th Street South.
The board voted to contract with Chase Realty to sell the acreage near Davies with a six-month contract and rate of 5 percent. They will contract with NAI North Central to sell Woodrow Wilson with a six-month contract and a rate of 5.35 percent.
Both votes were 8-1, with Meyers dissenting on both.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583