WEST FARGO — The West Fargo Public School District is planning to build a new elementary school in Fargo to help ease overcrowding at Freedom and Independence Elementary Schools.

The West Fargo Public School District is planning to build its 15th elementary school to help ease overcrowding at Freedom and Independence Elementary Schools.

At its Monday, Nov. 22 meeting, the board voted unanimously to buy land in the Rocking Horse Farm area in Fargo, west of Veterans Boulevard and north of 51st Avenue South.

"The overcrowding [at the two elementary schools], I think we can get by next year but by fall 2023 it would be too much," Superintendent Beth Slette said.

The district will buy 10 acres for about $3.05 million, which would accommodate a three-section elementary school with staff parking and a bus loop, as well as playground facilities to serve up to 480 students.

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"That is the amount of students that would still fit in the Sheyenne (High School) feeder system," Slette said.

Slette said the new school would help alleviate the overcrowding issue at Freedom and Independence but the district will still need to address the crowding at LIberty Middle School and Sheyenne High School. Slette said those population issues will need to be addressed at the start of the year and another facilities task force to evaluate the district's needs and possible solutions would be created after the new year.

In meantime, Monday, the board authorized business manager Levi Bachmeier to continue negotiations with the owners of the land while it also approved hiring YHR Partners as a project architect and made plans to commission an engineer to perform a traffic study to improve site access, as well as traffic impacts to the existing and future road networks.

Bachmeier said the city of Fargo has also asked the district to perform a traffic study prior to finalizing the site design.

The district still has a balance of $4.4 million in remaining general obligation bonds after the 2018 bond referendum that can be used for buying the land. The final price of building the school could be up to $21 million.

Bachmeier said the school district could use some of its $11.3 million of ESSER Dollars, or a $6 million limited tax bond from the building fund. Currently, the district is budgeting about 36% of its building fund for debt repayment.

A final design is expected to be brought before the board in March. Construction would begin the spring of 2022, and the school would open by fall 2023.

The district will need to adjust the elementary boundaries and feeder system boundaries at a later time.

The board was presented three options for addressing the needs of the Sheyenne feeder system at its Oct. 18 workshop. Along with a new school, the district considered expanding Independence Elementary School, which would cost about $12.1 million.

It also considered adding on to Independence and Freedom elementary schools for about $15.8 million. The construction would add eight classrooms to Freedom Elementary School on the south end of the building and add 12 classrooms and repurpose two rooms at Independence to make it a six-track school. Freedom Elementary would hold about 630 students and Independence would hold 662 students.