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WF school board, parks to partner on project

West Fargo Public Schools and West Fargo Parks are joining forces in hopes of avoiding redundancy with the close proximity of proposed playgrounds.

During a school board meeting Monday at West Fargo High School, board members voted 5-0 to approve a resolution to cooperate with West Fargo Parks for the installation of a playground near the district's new Freedom Elementary School.

School district business manager Mark Lemer said the proposal "allows us to create a single play area and avoid what we have at Westside," where there are district-owned and park-owned playgrounds within a half block of each other.

"We are getting a more comprehensive play area," Lemer said.

Near the Freedom site, West Fargo Parks owns 10 acres of land that butts up to 10 acres owned by the school district. In the agreement, the playground would be funded jointly between the parties and located on park-owned land.

West Fargo Parks would pay to install play equipment meant for children ages 2 to 5, and the schools would cover the rest. Lemer said the recommendation was that the school district allocate up to $75,000.00 from the Freedom Elementary Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment budget for the project.

This agreement did not sit well with some school board members, who felt the park district was getting off with less responsibility.

"I like to see it together ... I'd rather see it as one, big facility," board member Patti Stedman said. "I just think they got a really good deal, is all."

Lemer noted that this was not the first time West Fargo Schools and Parks had worked together. In 2007, the district committed more than $60,000 from bond proceeds to found the playground at Aurora Elementary School.

The school district partnered with Fargo Parks at the Osgood Kindergarten Center, although there the park district funded the entire construction process in exchange for use of Osgood's gym.

Board president Ben Koppelman said he was concerned about the liability of having a public park open during school hours. The board agreed, and the amendment was passed with emphasis that the park clarifies how and when the playground would be used.

Also Monday, the board unanimously approved the addition of a school resource officer for the 2013-14 school year. This will be the third officer in the district, and was requested to accommodate the district's second middle school and second high school.

Assistant superintendent Louise Dardis said the measure needed to be approved now so it could be budgeted in the next school year, and to allow the West Fargo Police Department to build the position into their requests for the city budget process that begins this summer.