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West Fargo School Board moves forward with new elementary school

WEST FARGO—By 2019, the West Fargo School District will have opened three new elementary schools in as many years after the School Board voted unanimously Monday, Oct. 23, to move forward with building its 15th elementary school.

It will be built on land it already owns near 52nd Avenue South, west of Veterans Boulevard in Fargo just north of the Deer Creek subdivision.

The school is estimated to cost $14 million. District Business Manager Mark Lemer said the district would use about $3 million in unused funds from the 2015 bond referendum. The rest of the money would come from the district's building fund.

"It would certainly be within the capacity of the building fund to absorb these [costs]," Lemer said.

Voters overwhelmingly approved a $98.1 million bond referendum in November 2015 to build a new aquatic center, a hockey arena, a transportation center, a central kitchen and two elementary schools: one north of Interstate 94 and one in Brooks Harbor south of I-94. The majority of the 2015 bond building projects will be finished by the end of the year.

Superintendent David Flowers said the district's consultant, RSP and Associates, and in-house projections expect the district to be at capacity in the elementary level by fall 2019, despite the new buildings. While the newest northside elementary school, Willow Park, will open in 2019, rapid growth is expected to continue south of I-94.

"We're not showing a need for schools on the north side after Willow Park opens," Flowers said. "The south side is a different story."

Earlier this month, Flowers formed a community committee that will examine how to deal with expected overcrowding in the middle and high schools, which could include asking voters to pass another bond referendum to build more facilities.

Flowers said building an elementary school with existing funds could take extra pressure off voters who may be asked to approved building a new middle school and high school soon.

"Were already risking voter fatigue knowing in a year or so we may need to ask voters for secondary space," he said.

Flowers said the southern Deer Creek elementary school could also help ease overcrowding at Liberty Middle School, which will be at capacity by fall 2018. The new school could possibly house sixth-graders, he said.

The district opened Legacy Elementary through a similar process. The 2011 bond helped build the Freedom and Independence elementary schools. When Freedom opened at capacity, the district saw it was still growing, so the school board decided to move ahead with building Legacy Elementary before a bond was passed. It opened in 2015.

Taxpayers can oppose using the building funds for this new school. The board plans to dedicate mills in the building fund to the new school at its Nov. 20 meeting and taxpayers will have 60 days after that to submit a protest to using those funds.

"If this project comes in better than budgeted, we could reduce the number of mills we have to dedicate from the building fund," Lemer said.

The Deer Creek Elementary project would be bid in February or March and construction would begin in May so that the school could open in fall 2019.

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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