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Crunch time for West Fargo school construction

Bleachers are assembled in the new gym at West Fargo’s Sheyenne High School. David Samson1 / 2
Independence Elementary is the newest building in the West Fargo School District. David Samson2 / 2

The push is on to complete several major construction projects in West Fargo that need to be wrapped up before school starts in August.

Trinity Elementary, which opens in fall 2015 in West Fargo as part of the St. John Paul II Catholic Schools Network, is also meeting its timelines, Superintendent Michael Smith said.

West Fargo’s Independence Elementary will be ready for students when the school year starts, school district Business Manager Mark Lemer said.

Independence will cost just over $11 million when it’s finished and fitted up with furniture and equipment, Lemer said.

Sheyenne High School’s second gymnasium and music classrooms will be ready when school starts, but the theater won’t be ready until later this fall because of the size and complexity of that part of the project, Lemer said.

“It’s not an unplanned circumstance. It’s just the nature of that type of construction,” Lemer said.

There were also soil problems that had to be fixed for the latest Sheyenne work, Lemer said.

It will have cost more than $25 million to turn the Sheyenne 9th Grade Center into a 1,500-student high school. The Phase I academic wing, which opened last fall, cost $12.7 million. The fine arts and gym additions will cost $12.5 million, he said.

A back-to-school commute pain will be work on 40th Avenue South.

The project is turning 1.5 miles of the two-lane 40th Avenue South into a four-lane road. While the section from Drain 27 west to Seventh Street East will be ready for back-to-school traffic, Lemer said the section from Seventh Street East to the Sheyenne River won’t be ready.

Lemer said the walls of the gymnasium for Legacy Elementary School in the Wilds subdivision are starting to go up.

“They’ll be working to get as much of that building enclosed before freeze-up,” Lemer said.

The total cost including fit-up for Legacy is expected to be about $12.2 million, Lemer said.

JPII’s Trinity on track

Just west of Veterans Boulevard, a few blocks north of 32nd Avenue South, work is zipping along on the next elementary school for the local Catholic schools group.

JPII Superintendent Smith said the school, which is being designed to handle preschoolers through grade five, is rising from the muddy prairie.

The walls of the gymnasium are in place, the foundations have been poured for the hallways, and some steel work is being done.

Smith said a recent construction progress meeting was upbeat.

While the new school may be viewed as competition for students by some, West Fargo School District’s Lemer said another school in the city by 2015 should help relieve the immediate need to build schools caused by rapid enrollment increases.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including education, Fargo city government, business and military affairs. He is currently The Forum's K-12 education reporter.

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