FARGO - The Fargo School District's Long Range Facilities Planning Task Force will get at least a couple more meetings to come up with their vision for the city's future public school construction.

The group will meet again May 16 and at least one more time beyond that, Superintendent Jeff Schatz said Thursday.

More meetings will be added if the group feels they are needed.

Schatz said he was "putting the process in their hands" and "letting them dictate where it goes."

"That will just give us more time to do the work we need to do," he said.

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Once the group has recommendations ready, they will be sent to the school board, Schatz said. The previous timetable called for two public meetings after that.

In addition, Schatz and Business Manager Broc Lietz presented Thursday's meeting, taking over for consultants from Kansas-based RSP and Associates, which had guided the previous three meetings.

Schatz told the task force that scenarios presented by the district's facilities consultant, Mounds View, Minn.-based ICS Consulting (which included closing or repurposing several school buildings north of 13th Avenue South), were just that firm's recommendations.

What will be important is how the task force wants to interpret those ideas in creating its own recommendations, Schatz reassured them.

Lietz gave the group "a balcony view" of the district's budget, explained the history of the district's taxing and mill levy, and detailed spending on building maintenance in recent years.

Schatz promised that at the next meeting, Lietz would have a breakdown of the costs for running each school, a detailed list of the work the district feels each school needs, and a look at the issues related to bonding, bonding debt and how much funding may be needed for construction over the next decade.

Schatz also gave the group an overview of where the district's students are located and an idea of where housing growth will bring more.

The change in the format reinvigorated task force members, who appeared much more animated Thursday than in the previous three meetings.

"I think it's going to help us get more information" and develop our own solutions, task force member Joseph Anderson said.

"I think this is the type of process we've been waiting for," task force member Amy Rand said. "Hearing from Dr. Schatz and Broc (Lietz) gives us a different angle or tone on the information. ... This is the perspective we need to hear.

"Extending the time, extending the process, allows for deeper thinking of what we're considering," she said.

The task force closed out the meeting contemplating questions in several areas. Their recommendations will be posted online at www.fargo.k12.nd.us under the Information Warehouse and long-range facilities planning areas.

The subject areas include:

•What recommendations or comments do you want to send to the school board regarding capacity issues facing the school district?

•What recommendations or comments do you want to send to the school board regarding configurations and neighborhood schools?

•What recommendations or comments do you want to forward to the school board regarding maintenance needs in the schools?

•What recommendations or comments do you want to forward to the school board to consider in dealing with student growth and overcrowding in schools in far south Fargo?

•What parts of Fargo's GO2030 report do you want the school board to consider during their deliberations about the Long Range Facilities Plan?

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583