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Helmut Schmidt, Published January 26 2011

Fargo School Board OKs $1.5 million addition for Kennedy Elementary

The Fargo School Board voted 7-2 Tuesday to have administrators develop plans for an addition costing up to $1.5 million for Kennedy Elementary School.

The motion calls for the addition to have eight classrooms and add space to the cafeteria and other common areas if needed. It would also have to be completed by this fall.

The board also voted 8-1 to have staff study student enrollment and building space usage districtwide this spring and summer and prepare plans to change school boundaries starting in fall 2012.

“I suspect these two steps put us in a position to serve” growth on the south side through 2015, board President Jim Johnson said. After that, if student enrollment continues to grow at the same pace, a new elementary school will have to be considered, he said.

Johnson said the Kennedy addition will get a second vote, as the board must approve the design presented by staff.

Overcrowding at Kennedy Elementary, and other space issues districtwide, have been discussed for months by the board.

Still, the motions didn’t come without repeated protests from board member John Strand, who said the public was not given proper notice that a vote was to be taken Tuesday on either issue.

Both motions originated under a business item on the agenda listed as “enrollment management,” presented by Rick Steen.

Steen and other board members said the issue has been debated for five months, and there was press coverage of the items from the board’s recent retreat and a public meeting at Kennedy last week.

“To think that there’s been no public notice … I just feel we’ve made extensive notice,” Steen said.

“This is not on the agenda. I’m very concerned that the public hasn’t been noticed on a $1.5 million issue,” Strand countered.

Linda Coates said Kennedy parents were told their input was needed by Monday because the board was going to act Tuesday.

“I don’t think this is the same atmosphere as a new high school,” she said, referring to Davies High School, which was built without a public referendum, riling some district residents.

On the boundaries study vote, Strand said he liked the motion but was unhappy that it, too, was not on the agenda.

“Why can’t we all get that information, and the public?” he asked. “The process still disturbs me.”

Strand voted “no” on both enrollment management motions. Kris Wallman also voted against authorizing staff to pursue plans for the addition.

In other business, Johnson asked the board to mull whether they believe the board’s pay should be changed. Board members are now paid $1,000 per month.

Johnson said he wanted the issue discussed before the budget is built.

“I have a feeling some of you didn’t make minimum wage as I look at the (board’s business) calendar,” Johnson said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583