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Helmut Schmidt, Published January 28 2013

WF to add to Osgood, seek bids on new elementary

WEST FARGO – Two rooms will be added to Osgood Kindergarten Center and fifth-graders from Freedom and Aurora elementary schools will be sent to Liberty Middle School this fall to handle an anticipated influx of about 320 more elementary-age students in West Fargo School District.

School board members voted 6-0 Monday to spend $525,000 on the two-room addition to the north side of the kindergarten center.

Those rooms, along with three expected to be available at the center, can hold 115 first-graders, Business Manager Mark Lemer said.

The board also voted 6-0 to send the eight classrooms of fifth-graders from Freedom and Aurora, about 200 students, to nearby Liberty Middle School, which is on track to open this fall.

If more space is needed, an art room can be repurposed at Aurora Elementary, which can hold 25 students, Lemer said.

The board also voted 6-0 to seek bids for the district’s next elementary school, expected to be built a couple of blocks north of 40th Avenue South and just east of 54th Street South in Fargo.

That school, expected to cost $11 million fully equipped, will hold 550 students and open in the fall of 2014, Lemer said.

But, construction on that building this summer may have extra hurdles.

Julie Rokke, a principal partner in the architectural firm YHR Partners, said the district had to get a special building permit because the area’s infrastructure work will be installed this summer even as the district works on the school.

“Construction in that area this summer will be chaos,” she said.

The board agreed to the recommendations of its Southside Enrollment Committee on handling this fall’s enrollment growth, but not without more than an hour of debate on whether to build the Osgood addition, or try other alternatives, such as moving students to schools north of I-94.

Board member Dave Olson said limiting the number of school changes for students is great, “but that’s going to cost us $525,000. … It’s not chump change.”

Olson said the school board must decide if it will add another gym to Sheyenne High School, and may need cash to build another elementary school if enrollment keeps growing.

“I just don’t want to overbuild, overspend, when there are other things looming. I just want to be sure it’s money well spent,” he said.

Board member Angela Korsmo countered that it’s not good for students if the solution on classrooms is always to make do.

“If you’re going to provide a quality learning environment, it’s going to cost some money,” she said.

Lemer said the district saved some money in its construction projects. He said more than $1.1 million in contingency funds remain for Liberty Middle School.

He said all of what voters approved in 2011 in the $82.5 million bond vote will be provided, though having enough funds to build yet another elementary school without the board needing to go back to the public for more bond authority must still to be determined.

The district has land for an elementary school along 52nd Avenue South.

West Fargo started the school year with 314 more students in the elementary grades, most of them south of Interstate 94.

The district’s newest school, Freedom Elementary, opened full because of the influx of students.

Board member Karen Nitzkorski was not present.


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