The West Fargo School Board will renovate the lower level of the Lodoen Center to create space for the YMCA to operate a future day care.

At its regular meeting Monday, Sept. 23, Business Manager Mark Lemer said the district would use money from its building levy to fund the more than $712,000 project that will renovate the space that is currently a locker room as well as the building’s mechanical and electrical systems.

“It will make the space more usable in the future, and it provides a population of students who will be potential participants in the pre-kindergarten program at the Early Childhood Center,” Lemer said.

The Lodoen Center building houses the school district’s YMCA-operated preschool program, special education programs and Community High School, which serves about 60 students.

The city library also leases space in the building from the school district. The school district already provide pre-kindergarten for 4-year olds in the space within the Early Childhood Center in partnership with the YMCA.

The day care would be open to newborns, toddlers, 3-year olds, and 4-year olds.

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The YMCA would pay $11 per square foot in rent annually and has requested a 10-year lease, which would equal about $803,000.

While the school district will be responsible for maintenance of the building, such as heat, lights and snow removal, half of the rent would be used to offset those costs, Lemer said. The YMCA is hoping to secure additional funding that would help pay for renovation costs, he said.

Board member Kara Gravely-Stack said she sees it as an investment in future students, while board member Andrea Payne said with many other building projects ongoing in the school district she is concerned that a project for future students, rather than current students, is not the best use of taxpayer money.

“It’s tough for me to see we are renovating something for a day care,” Payne said. “I think the taxpayers want us to use [funding] for pre-kindergarten through kindergarten.”

Board President Patti Stedman said it is an investment in future students and having a day care center in the same location as preschool classes could be beneficial for students, especially those who are from low-income families.

“I think the consistency for the kids has to be good too. They’re not moving from a day care center to a preschool to another school,” Stedman said. “This could take away a couple transitions before kindergarten.”

Board member Jim Jonas said he appreciates the YMCA signing a 10-year lease with plans to possibly remain in the building longer.

“I do like the fact it will help our disadvantaged kids, lower income and so forth,” Jonas said. “And I do like they are a good partner and I see them going past 10 years.”

The board approved the project Monday with 6-to-1 one vote; Payne voted no on the proposal.

Construction will begin this winter and finish by April. The YMCA could open the day care by May 1.