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West Fargo School Board approves building another elementary school

WEST FARGO— The School District here decided to officially move forward with building another elementary school, this time in the Deer Creek neighborhood near 52nd Avenue South in Fargo.

The West Fargo School District is growing at about 400 to 500 students each year and, although Brooks Harbor Elementary School just opened and Willow Creek Elementary School will open in the fall, both schools will be at capacity in the near future.

"If there's not a school under construction by 2019, and certainly by 2020, you'll be running out of space, especially on the south side," said Superintendent David Flowers.

The estimated $14 million school would use about $3 million that is left over from the 2015 bond referendum and the remaining $11 million would come from the district's building fund.

The School District owns land near 52nd Avenue South, west of Veterans Boulevard in Fargo, just north of the Deer Creek subdivision. Officials are seeing the most rapid growth on the south end of the school district, which in some cases encompasses housing in the city of Fargo.

"We find growth is happening on the south side," Business Manager Mark Lemer said. "The northside is generlaly maintaining its enrolllments; you don't see the influx you do on the south side."

A bond referendum passed in 2015 helped pay for the district's newest elementary schools as well as other facilities and remodeling across the district.

A long-range facilities task force is currently meeting to consider building a third high school and third middle school by requesting another bond referendum because the district will be overcrowded at the middle school and high school levels by as soon as next fall.

"If we wait and put his elementary school in a bond referendum and the bond referendum doesn't pass, then we're stuck without a school we need," Board Member Alan Skramstad said.

Lemer said if the school is under construction and another referendum fails, the school could possibly be made into a facility that can help with the secondary-level crowding such as a sixth-grade center.

The district currently has 247 elementary classrooms in use but expects it will need 259 classrooms next school year.

Board Member Patti Stedman said the district plans to hold preschool classes at the Lodoen Kindergarten Center after kindergarten classes are moved into elementary schools next year. But if the district needs more elementary classrooms and does not build a new school, Lodoen would have to be used for elementary use and expanding preschool would not be possible.

The board authorized consideration of the project about two months ago, which gave the public 60 days to protest.

With no protest, the board voted unanimously on Monday, Feb. 12, to start construction of the new southside elementary school this year. The school would be finished by fall 2020.

Wendy Reuer

Wendy reports for The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer, where she is also assistant editor. A University of Minnesota Morris graduate from North Dakota, Wendy started her career in television news and entertainment in Minnesota and at CBS in Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

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