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Helmut Schmidt, Published September 24 2013

Fargo School Board to discuss future of its schools tonight

FARGO – The Fargo School Board will try to decide tonight whether the School District should keep all of its current elementary schools open in the next decade, or consider repurposing, mothballing or permanently closing one or more schools north of Interstate 94.

The debate follows presentations on the heating, ventilation and air conditioning needs of the district’s older, non-air-conditioned schools, as well as a look at the 10-year costs of operational maintenance for the district’s buildings.

At a meeting on Sept. 9, the board debated a motion that would keep open “for the foreseeable future” the district’s “paired” schools, which split grades kindergarten through five between them. That proposal would affect the Horace Mann-Roosevelt and Clara Barton-Hawthorne schools.

Other board members called for sparing all of the district’s schools, which would help keep McKinley Elementary open on the district’s far north side.

That idea brought protests from board members who feel McKinley Elementary is too small, needs too many expensive upgrades and should be closed.

What could be pivotal in the debate whether to shutter any northside elementary schools are the costs associated with keeping them open versus finding other uses for them (for example, preschool centers, office spaces); replacing aging structures with new schools; closing and selling the buildings; or mothballing one or more.

The School Board meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the first-floor boardroom of the district’s main offices at 415 4th St. N.