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Fargo's Discovery Middle School may get $16.3M expansion, renovation

The Fargo School Board will be asked to decide Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, about whether the school district should go ahead with $16.3 million in additions and renovations to Discovery Middle School. David Samson / The Forum1 / 3
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FARGO—Fargo School Board members will be asked Tuesday to approve $16.3 million to expand and remodel Discovery Middle School.

The planned work, once completed, would enable the school to accommodate 1,100 students, while making the 23-year-old building more efficient. Discovery now has 985 students.

"The board has been looking at this project and it has been on our radar for over a year" as south Fargo enrollment has grown, said school board President Jim Johnson.

Plans call for 18,474 square feet in new construction at a cost of $4 million, plus remodeling and refurbishing 173,755 square feet of the two-story building for nearly $9.5 million. The remainder of the price tag includes replacing heat pumps and the public address system, various fees and a 5 percent contingency set-aside.

If the project is approved, the Phase I new construction (expansion of the commons, secure entrance, new administrative offices; music rehearsal room and storage; and wrestling and dance rooms) could start at the end of the school year with the goal of having much of that construction complete by the start of school next fall, Johnson said.

"We have to assure ourselves that we'll be able to open school in the fall," he said.

The current plan calls for second-phase renovations and refurbishing to follow, with completion in the fall of 2019.

However, Johnson said the board could also elect to delay the start of one or both phases.

Business Manager Broc Lietz said growth projections have slowed a bit for the Discovery area, so an 1,100-student school should work well.

"When people see it rolled out, it will make a lot of sense," Lietz said.

Lietz and Johnson said administrators and board members are leery about making the school larger, but it is possible to add a pod of classrooms.

The district's philosophy is to have 800-student middle schools, Lietz said.

Johnson said there is still space for students at Carl Ben Eielson Middle School in the district's south-central area, and Ben Franklin Middle School on the north side.

Johnson said the district could theoretically pay cash for the Discovery project over the next two years.

He said funding could come from the district's fund balances. There is also the possibility funds could be available through the state school construction loan program. The district could also issue bonds to cover project costs, he said.

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 K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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