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Mike Nowatzki, Published February 12 2011

Lidgerwood school repairs nearly complete

Lidgerwood, N.D. - Levi Manikowski rides the school bus about 10 minutes to Lidgerwood in the morning, but his trip doesn’t end there.

At 8:15 a.m., the sophomore boards a second bus and rides another 20 minutes to Wyndmere, where Lidgerwood High School students have attended classes since fire heavily damaged their school Nov. 8.

“It’s long,” Manikowski said of the daily commute.

But it won’t last much longer.

School officials hope to let Lidgerwood students in grades seven through 12 return to the repaired high school wing by March 1, Superintendent Tony Grubb said.

“We just had a contractors meeting (Wednesday) night, and we’re still shooting for that date,” he said.

About 35 junior high students are attending classes at two churches in Lidgerwood, while roughly 80 high school students and their teachers travel to Wyndmere, where they attend classes at the school and community center, Grubb said.

“They’re anxious to get back,” he said. “The biggest challenge is getting the buses going when it’s 15 below zero outside and riding that over there and the transportation part. They don’t enjoy that. But once they get there, they’re fine.”

Wyndmere and Lidgerwood co-op in sports, so many students already knew each other when the Lidgerwood students moved in. Lidgerwood students say their Wyndmere hosts have been hospitable, but there’s not a lot of elbow room.

“Lots of kids in the hallways. It’s packed full,” Lidgerwood freshman Lance Haase said.

At the Lidgerwood school, contractors are hanging suspended ceilings in classrooms and hallways in the high school wing. Painting is mostly completed, and crews will start laying carpet and tile next week. A couple of classrooms still need windows, and wiring is wrapping up.

Some work will remain unfinished when students return. Cabinets for the home economics room are scheduled to arrive in mid-March, and the new lockers are about six weeks out, Grubb said.

Students will help assemble the lockers, he said, adding that until then, “we’ll just have to mark an area and put some boxes there for the kids to put their stuff in.”

This summer, crews will remove asbestos and replace the old carpet and ceiling in the school’s elementary wing, he said. Elementary students were allowed to return to their classrooms in early December.

A deputy state fire marshal ruled that the Lidgerwood blaze started when papers and other combustibles ignited on a stovetop in a home economics classroom. The stove, which hadn’t been used for years, was turned on when someone accidentally flipped on a breaker.

Cleanup cost about $950,000, and the school has spent roughly $500,000 on reconstruction so far, Grubb said. It’s not known how much of the costs will be covered by insurance through the State Fire and Tornado Fund, he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528