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Harwood School closed until further notice

Westside Elementary principal Beth Slette leads a group of Harwood elementary students into the school Monday afternoon. The Harwood students are being relocated for the time being. Carrie Snyder/The Forum1 / 2
Harwood Kindergarten student, R.J. Buckley carries one of the many boxes packed from Harwood Elementary into Westside Elementary school Monday afternoon. Carrie Snyder/The Forum2 / 2

Staff at Harwood Elementary School got ready to move out of their building on Monday, as the school was evacuated until the threat of flooding has dissipated. As of March 24, K-2 students from Harwood have been attending classes at Westside Elementary, while grades 3 through 5 have been moved to the Lodoen Community Center.

Staff and students were busy boxing up books and school supplies on Monday morning, while school officials coordinated a bus to transport the students and their boxes to Westside and Lodoen in preparation for the next day's classes in their new, temporary classrooms. Boxes were donated by Cole Paper to facilitate the move.

"The teachers and kids have been just great. They're just going with the flow. Wherever we need them to be, they're willing and ready to go," Jerry Barnum, principal at Harwood Elementary said on Monday. "I have to commend Beth Slette at Westside and Mr. Gravel at the Lodoen Center. They've been Johnny-on-the-spot today and they're ready for our kids," Barnum added.

At Westside Elementary, the resource center and an art room were converted into classrooms to make room for the Harwood students. At the Lodoen Center, the third graders were moved into an adult education room; fourth graders are using one of the West Fargo Library's classrooms and a homework room; and fifth graders are using the community room next to the Chamber of Commerce offices.

Thomas Gravel, Community High School principal, said that the transition has been going smoothly so far. The biggest challenges were coordinating physical education classes and lunch schedules. Jan Sliper and Food Services personnel were busy adjusting food quantities and staffing needs. About half of the Community High students were excused from classes on Monday to help with sandbagging efforts.

Barnum applauded superintendent Dana Diesel Wallace for working with local officials to help coordinate volunteer efforts among West Fargo students.

"Dana has been doing an incredible job, acting as a go-between, and helping coordinate things," Barnum said.

Going by the flood of 1997, school officials anticipate Harwood Elementary could be closed up to three or four weeks. Busing for Harwood students has been suspended indefinitely. Students will be granted an excused absence if they are unable to get to school due to road closures or if they are helping sandbag their own homes.