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Helmut Schmidt, Published February 26 2013

Consulting firm to build Fargo schools task force

FARGO – A consulting firm will cobble together a 30- to 40-member group of community members to hammer out several building scenarios for the Fargo School District.

The school board voted 6-0 Tuesday to have administrators work with RSP and Associates, a Kansas-based firm, on cobbling the task force together in the next three weeks.

That group would meet by March 21, according to a preliminary timetable. It will then analyze information on enrollment, buildings, the district’s finances and educational needs, and come up with construction plans to be shared with the public in three open forums in May.

Plans could include repurposing, repairing or replacing buildings, school boundary or class size changes, building additions, relocating programs or sticking with the status quo.

The overall goal is to have a new long-term facilities plan approved for the district by July.

Some board members said they wanted to have a board member on the task force, but President Jim Johnson disagreed, saying that didn’t work well the last time the board wanted input on a facilities plan. He said that task force was nearly “derailed.”

“We’d be better served … not having a board member there,” Johnson said.

“I think we have to have confidence in the individuals we select,” Dinah Goldenberg said. “Let the task force do its job.”

Robin Nelson said it would be wise to have a board meeting between the time the task force reaches a consensus on plans it likes, and when those plans are shared at the May public forums.

That meeting would be “a check and balance” to be sure unaffordable plans weren’t offered to the public, Johnson agreed.

He also suggested the public forums should be held close together, perhaps just a day apart, saying he’d prefer feedback that’s not affected by media accounts of the meetings.

After the public forums, the school board would meet at the end of May to evaluate the task force’s work and the public’s feedback. The board could then offer further guidance to the task force.

The task force then meets through June to review the public’s comments and make revisions if needed.

The school board would then get the task force’s finished work to make a final decision in July.

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