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Helmut Schmidt, Published February 08 2013

Early options for revamping Fargo’s schools presented

FARGO – Preliminary plans that include building new elementary schools and finding other uses for or selling several more in the Fargo School District were presented to the school board’s long-range facilities planning committee Friday.

The back-of-the-napkin plans focus on replacing or repurposing aging or small schools north of 13th Avenue South, and building an elementary school in the city’s far south to handle continued growth in student numbers there.

Other options will be developed in coming weeks, and include one with the cost of maintaining the status quo, Superintendent Jeff Schatz said.

Details of three options were received by The Forum on Friday. The first two were presented to four school board members at a working lunch.

The third was worked up by district staff and facilities experts from Mounds View, Minn.-based ICS Consulting later in the afternoon.

Repurposing refers to selling a building or finding another use for it.

Option No. 1 calls for:

None of the early plans included construction cost figures, or a determination of whether the district can actually afford them.

All of the work is in the “very preliminary” stages, Schatz said. “These are just thoughts and ideas.”

Schatz said new elementary schools the size of Bennett – capacity 682 students – could cost $10 million to $12 million.

All of the scenarios being developed by district staff and ICS will mean changing school attendance boundaries, Schatz said. That means students from a school that is repurposed may not necessarily be sent to one being built, but instead to a closer building, he said.

Board member John Strand said putting new schools in older neighborhoods may reverse the decline of those areas and attract young families.

“We’re not taking anything away. We’re looking at reinvigorating the area,” Schatz agreed.

Instead of putting large amounts of money into old buildings, “let’s reinvest,” Schatz said.

“You’ve got to make it so people want to move in when others move out,” board member Dinah Goldenberg said.

Schatz said a building like Roosevelt Elementary, with its relatively new gymnasium and cafeteria, could be used to house the district’s ancillary programs, much as Agassiz School was revamped to hold Woodrow Wilson High School, other district programs, and agencies that work with area schools.

“I see Roosevelt as the north Agassiz,” Schatz said. “I kind of like that.”

The goal of the facilities committee and administrators is to have a report for the School Board by March 12, Schatz said.

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

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