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Board to advertise for ‘54th Street’ school bids

With an anticipated 320 new students coming to West Fargo elementary schools this fall, the West Fargo School Board elected to make changes that can potentially ease the process.

In Monday’s meeting, the board unanimously authorized the administration to advertise for bids for the district’s next elementary school, which they are tentatively calling the “54th Street” Elementary School, set to hold 550 students and be completed in time for the 2014-2015 school year.

This new school, which was approved by voters along with Freedom Elementary School and the upcoming Liberty Middle School, will be built to alleviate some of the pressure on the eight West Fargo elementary schools that are at - and, in some cases, past - capacity.

The school will feature a night sky motif in its media center to match the blue sky theme of Aurora Elementary School and the tree theme of Freedom Elementary School. It’s colors will be copper, silver and gold.

According to district business manager Mark Lemer, the budget for the construction of the school is roughly $9.25 million. When other costs - such as architectural engineering and design fees, furniture and other miscellaneous necessities - are factored in, the total cost of the project should be around $10,972,000.

Total cost of Freedom Elementary School was about $10.2 million.

Also, construction of the school could prove challenging this summer, as nearby road construction, including the expansion of 40th Avenue, might slow the process. According to Julie Rokke of YHR Partners, that area will be “chaos” this summer.

The board also unanimously approved a two-classroom addition to the Osgood Kindergarten Center.

The proposed addition would tack on a 2,858 square-foot area to the north end of the Osgood Center, where renovations to parking areas and sewer lines could be kept to a minimum, and would cost the district an estimated $525,000, which could potentially be paid with leftover contingency funds from Liberty Middle School. Coupled into that price is the fact that the work will have to be done in the short span of roughly three months.

“At some point in the future, this wing could support our Southside Early Childhood/Special Ed. Programs in their entirety,” Lemer said. “These two classrooms will always have a use in this facility.”

Another potential use for this area is to house first-graders living south of the interstate and “limit the transitions” those students will encounter until the “54 Street” Elementary School is open. These rooms, along with three others in the Osgood Center expected to be available, should hold 115 students.

“In this rapid-growth environment, we’ll always be looking -- on the south side in particular -- for extra classrooms,” Lemer said.

The board also voted to send roughly 200 fifth-graders from Freedom and Aurora Elementary Schools to Liberty Middle School, which will be open in the fall. However, they plan to maintain the single-teacher, elementary school day format for these classes.