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Helmut Schmidt, Published February 18 2013

Fargo to create school facilities task force

FARGO – Fargo school officials hope to quickly assemble a task force of district residents as part of an ambitious timetable to create a new long-range facilities plan by July.

A school board committee on Monday directed administrators to work with Kansas-based consultant RSP and Associates to assemble a Long Range Facilities Planning Task Force in the next couple weeks.

“Get ’er done!” school board member Rick Steen said.

The task force will examine construction scenarios being assembled by Mounds View, Minn.-based ICS Consulting.

Those scenarios – whether to repurpose, repair or replace buildings – would go to the public in April and May for feedback, with the task force using comments to help create a consensus.

That consensus plan or ranking of facilities plans would go to the school board in June, with a decision by July, a timeline document shows.

“It’s entirely doable. … Sometimes deadlines help us perform. Yet, we need to be flexible with those deadlines” said John Strand, chairman of the school board’s ad hoc long-range facilities planning group.

“This is our moment to bring other stakeholders to the table,” he said.

Strand urges people interested in being part of the task force to let board members and top administrators know “sooner rather than later.”

The school board is expected to be presented an early facilities plan by ICS on March 12. The options will include one that focuses on the cost of keeping the status quo.

Board members on Monday also emphasized that a short-term solution for overcrowding at southside Kennedy Elementary School must be decided by April.

“Right now, we need to do something … for fall,” Rick Steen said.

After a 30-minute debate on the potential make-up of the Long Range Facilities Planning Task Force – teachers, retirees, empty nesters, business people, parents and neighborhood representatives – Kris Wallman suggested the job of determining the fairness of the group would be best left to RSP and Associates.

“I feel like we’re reinventing the wheel,” Wallman said. “I would be very much in favor of someone else doing this.”

Dinah Goldenberg said it will be important to get the work of the facilities group done before the summer vacation season hits and members get pulled away to other commitments.

“If we don’t have all this done by the middle of May, there won’t be a committee by the end of May,” she said.

Whether the district can afford to build as many as three elementary schools in the next few years must still be determined, Business Manager Broc Lietz told the group. But the cost of doing all the needed repairs on aging buildings might not be possible either, he said.

Other board members said the educational value of upgrading facilities or keeping them the same should be an important consideration.

“I look at it as a teeter-totter. We need a balance” of educational needs and costs, Strand said.

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