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Wendy Reuer, Published June 20 2013

Task force finishes long-range facilities plan

FARGO – The Fargo School District’s Community Long Range Facilities Planning Task Force wants the district to increase its budget for building operations and maintenance.

After six meetings, the task force hammered out five recommendation “themes” that were presented Thursday night for the school board to consider when deciding how to deal with the district’s buildings over the next 10 years.

One of the primary recommendations is that the school board increase its building maintenance budget to about 4 percent of its total budget and increase the maintenance budget proportionally each year to accommodate the needs of schools.

Business Manager Broc Lietz said the district’s current annual budget is about $123 million and the district now budgets about $1.5 million for maintenance.

Superintendent Jeff Schatz said a little over $3 million for maintenance next year would likely be affordable.

Part of the task force’s recommendations will be for the school board to consider installing air conditioning. Six elementary schools currently don’t have air conditioning. The task force said the board will need to decide if renovating those schools is a capital improvement or part of the ongoing operational costs over the next 10 years.

Another task force recommendation is for the school board to partner with the city, Cass County and Fargo Park District to improve public relations and educate the public, especially in times of proposed mill levy increases, so that the public can understand and support why the district may need more money.

The task force said the school board should consider Ed Clapp Park as a place to build a new school. The park district owns the land. Some school board members have suggested a new school in the area would help accommodate a growing residential population in the Bluemont Lakes area.

The task force agreed that the current grade configurations of schools should remain the same with elementary schools housing grades kindergarten through grade five, middle schools composed of grades six through eight, and high schools composed of grades nine through 12.

The task force did not suggest attendance boundary changes. Schatz said boundary changes would be made after the facilities plan is cemented.

“That’s the whole reason we are doing what we do,” Schatz said.

Throughout the process, task force members have stressed the importance of small neighborhood schools. Members will ask that the board remember the value of small schools and consider the student safety and walkability to school when determining future facilities.

Schatz will present the school board with the recommendations at an all-day board meeting on July 25 at Davies High School. The full report of the task force recommendations will be available on the district’s website.

The task force has asked the school board hold public meetings once a long-range facilities plan is drafted.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530