WEST FARGO — Over the summer, West Fargo began more than a dozen new school construction projects thanks to a $106.9 million bond approved last September.
New turf at West Fargo High School and cleaning and maintenance projects have been completed; however, several projects are delayed and may spell trouble for a few school operations.
The school board is working with contractors to finish many of these projects before school begins; however, Aurora, Freedom, Independence, Deer Creek, and Harwood may all be impacted by the construction.
This summer, construction began at Aurora, Freedom, and Independence Elementary Schools to provide additional art, gifts and talented, and health classrooms.
But all three sites are still under construction.
Aurora and Freedom have backup plans for this space. However, Independence Elementary is relying on the new classrooms for third-grade classes.
“There’s a fair amount of work still left to be done,” said Mark Lemer, West Fargo’s business manager.
The delays have come from an inexperienced contractor, Jeff Goebel, director of buildings and grounds told the board.
The project requires three independent contractors and they haven’t figured out how to work well together, Goebel said.
“Every project had major difficulties,” he said.
South Elementary is facing major construction delays, as well.
Construction at South included the addition of a secured entrance, new office area and additional cabinets for teacher storage using funds from the 2015 bond, but due to a short supply of cabinets and infrastructure issues, the project is yet to be complete.
The school is working on finishing the last stages of the project and hoping to have classes completed soon.
Deer Creek, West Fargo’s new elementary, is also facing delays.
A “certificate of occupancy,” which states that a building has met codes, was supposed to be issued on Friday. After delays, the certificate was still not approved by Monday evening.
The mechanical inspector for Fargo found several minute problems, Goebel said, including issues with the fire alarm. Goebel noted there are other problems still needing to be addressed, including the completion of duct work.
Teachers were allowed into the building around 3 p.m., Monday to set up new classrooms, but because they’re working after normal contract hours, teachers are being paid for additional time.
The school will not be open for public use until the certificate of occupancy is given.
Harwood Elementary is the furthest behind schedule.
Harwood is West Fargo’s most vulnerable project, Lemer said. “In hindsight, this project should have been in two phases.”
Construction of an office addition will not be complete before the start of school. The addition of two new classrooms may also be delayed.
When the building opens, the school office will temporarily be located in a former kindergarten classroom. The school may have to combine a second-grade class if a classroom is not complete.
“It’s like a disaster,” West Fargo School Board President Patti Stedman said. “Without a doubt, something was wrong.”
Delays are due to “too many moving parts,” a late start date and the shut off of water and electricity, Lemer said.
The project, which was already over budget, will now face higher costs.
“This project will not be budget-friendly,” Lemer said.
Readers can reach education reporter Emma Beyer, a Report For America corps member, at 701-241-5535 or firstname.lastname@example.org