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Crunch time for school construction: Moorhead projects behind schedule; most of F-M on time after wet spring

Work continues on the new addition at West Fargo Sheyenne High School. David Samson / The Forum1 / 3
A gymnasium and eight-classroom are new additions under construction at the Probstfield Center for Education in Moorhead. David Samson / The Forum2 / 3
Construction workers build a wall at Ed Clapp Elementary located at 3131 28th Street in south Fargo. David Samson / The Forum 3 / 3

MOORHEAD – The push is on to complete several major school construction projects in the metro area.

Space will be tight at a couple of Moorhead’s elementary schools when classes open Sept. 2, with work three to four weeks behind schedule on classroom and gymnasium additions at Robert Asp Elementary and the Probstfield Center for Education.

“We’re going to have to play musical rooms right now until everything is settled,” likely by the end of September, Assistant Superintendent Brandon Lunak said.

Construction of West Fargo’s Independence Elementary is nearly done, and all but a new theater will be ready for business at Sheyenne High School. But getting to those schools will be tougher for a while because the western section of the 40th Avenue South widening project won’t be completed by the Aug. 25 start of classes.

Meanwhile, air-conditioning and heating upgrades at six Fargo School District elementary schools are on schedule, as is construction of Ed Clapp Elementary School.

Trinity Elementary, which opens in fall 2015 in West Fargo as part of the St. John Paul II Catholic Schools Network, is also meeting its timelines, Superintendent Michael Smith said.


The additions at Moorhead’s Robert Asp Elementary and the Probstfield Center for Education started several weeks late and won’t be ready by the time school starts, Lunak said.

The $2.4 million Robert Asp project will include a gymnasium, one classroom, a resource room and a family bathroom.

The $4.7 million Probstfield project is even more ambitious. It adds eight classrooms, two resource rooms and remodels the media center and conference room.

The district may have to temporarily use some auxiliary spaces, such as speech pathology and reading intervention rooms, as classrooms, Lunak said.

Last year’s class of more than 500 kindergartners is moving into first grade. This year’s class is projected to be 475 to 495 children, said district spokeswoman Pam Gibb.

“We’re going to have to fill every nook and cranny until those classrooms open,” Lunak said.

Probstfield had 10 classes of kindergartners last year, with six classrooms at Ellen Hopkins Elementary and six at Robert Asp, Gibb said.

Probstfield will take more kindergarteners this year, Gibb said. Robert Asp will go down to four sections of kindergarteners and Ellen Hopkins to five sections, she said.

Lunak said if kindergarten enrollment tops estimates, the Probstfield media center and the school board meeting room may be converted into temporary classrooms.

The Moorhead School District’s other big summer project, a $1.5 million track replacement and upgrade of the soccer and football field at the high school, should be done on time, Lunak said.

The field turf should be installed by the end of this week or early next week. Concrete for the track will be poured next week. The concrete needs 28 days to cure before the track surface can be laid on top, Lunak said.

West Fargo

West Fargo’s Independence Elementary will be ready for students when the school year starts, school district Business Manager Mark Lemer said.

Independence will cost just over $11 million when it’s finished and fitted up with furniture and equipment, Lemer said.

Sheyenne High School’s second gymnasium and music classrooms will be ready when school starts, but the theater won’t be ready until later this fall because of the size and complexity of that part of the project, Lemer said.

“It’s not an unplanned circumstance. It’s just the nature of that type of construction,” Lemer said.

There were also soil problems that had to be fixed for the latest Sheyenne work, Lemer said.

It will have cost more than $25 million to turn the Sheyenne 9th Grade Center into a 1,500-student high school. The Phase I academic wing, which opened last fall, cost $12.7 million. The fine arts and gym additions will cost $12.5 million, he said.

A back-to-school commute pain will be work on 40th Avenue South.

The project is turning 1.5 miles of the two-lane 40th Avenue South into a four-lane road. While the section from Drain 27 west to Seventh Street East will be ready for back-to-school traffic, Lemer said the section from Seventh Street East to the Sheyenne River won’t be ready.

Lemer said the walls of the gymnasium for Legacy Elementary School in the Wilds subdivision are starting to go up.

“They’ll be working to get as much of that building enclosed before freeze-up,” Lemer said.

The total cost including fit-up for Legacy is expected to be about $12.2 million, Lemer said.


This year should find a cooler start to studying than last year for many Fargo School District students.

Six of the district’s schools – Madison, McKinley, Horace Mann, Lewis and Clark, Roosevelt and Clara Barton elementaries – are getting induction displacement air-conditioning systems, as well as more efficient dual fuel boilers for their heating systems, Business Manager Broc Lietz said.

Last year, a late summer heat wave led to a week of closures at the schools because of high classroom temperatures.

The target completion date for the $12.3 million in work is Aug. 8, Lietz said. The school year starts Aug. 27.

“We feel good about the progress of all six of those sites,” Lietz said.

At the Ed Clapp Elementary School site in Bluemont Lakes, much of the foundation has been poured and masonry block for the exterior walls is going up, Lietz said.

Despite the wet spring, and considerable work to remove, re-compact and stabilize the soil at the site, the project is on schedule, Lietz said. Laying masonry block for the gym should start in the next few days.

“It is really progressing nicely for us,” he said. “They’ve gotten back on schedule.”

The target “substantial completion” date for Ed Clapp is Aug. 1, 2015. With all expenses and fit-up, it is expected to cost $15.6 million, Lietz said.

The city of Fargo is now putting in 28th Street South from 32nd Avenue South to 30th Avenue South as an access road for the school, Lietz said.

“The goal is to have all that work done this construction season,” he said.

JPII’s Trinity on track

Just west of Veterans Boulevard, a few blocks north of 32nd Avenue South, work is zipping along on the next elementary school for the local Catholic schools group.

JPII Superintendent Smith said the school, which is being designed to handle preschoolers through grade five, is rising from the muddy prairie.

The walls of the gymnasium are in place, the foundations have been poured for the hallways, and some steel work is being done.

Smith said a recent construction progress meeting was upbeat.

“Everyone was very positive about where we were,” Smith said. “Exciting, I'll tell you that.”

While the new school may be viewed as competition for students by some, West Fargo School District’s Lemer said another school in the city by 2015 should help relieve the immediate need to build schools caused by rapid enrollment increases.

“There will be more capacity that fall to handle elementary students than we’ve typically seen in the last few years,” Lemer said. “Hopefully, we’ll (West Fargo School District) get a little bit of breathing room … to look at what’s next in our strategic planning.”

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 education, Fargo city government, business and military affairs. He is currently The Forum's K-12 education reporter.
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