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Summer projects abound in Fort Dodge school district

New classrooms at Butler; Cooper, Feelhaver see roofing upgrades

July 11, 2011
By BRANDON L. SUMMERS, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

Fort Dodge Community School District has three construction projects under way, and is about to start a rather large one.

That project will be its new middle school, to be built on 65 acres near 10th Avenue North and 32nd Street, near the Rosedale Rapids Aquatic Center.

According to District Superintendent Doug Van Zyl, the district is reviewing documents from architects and expects to have their review done this week.

"It goes back to the architect for them to finalize, and then in the next couple of weeks we should get those out to bid," he said.

There are two middle schools in the district, Fair Oaks for grades five and six and Phillips for grades seven and eight.

"The district took a look at those two facilities and what they needed for updates and renovations to be able to keep them functioning the way they should be, and it was more expensive to do those than it was to go out and built a new middle school," Van Zyl said.

An added benefit, Van Zyl said, will be fewer transitions for the district's students. Instead of changing schools every two years, from starting at ending elementary school to going to into high school, students can stay in one building for grades five through eight before moving on.

"Now you've narrowed that down to two transitions instead of three," he said. "It's not always good to have a bunch of transitions."

Renovations for the two middle schools would have cost $37 million, Van Zyl said. The new middle school has an estimated cost of $30 million.

"Of course, it's an estimate," he said. "You don't know how much it's going to be until you get it out and get it bid. The climate hopefully is still good for people to be giving us fair bids, so hopefully it will come in less than that."

Van Zyl said that, hopefully, they will be "pushing dirt" this fall for the school to open in 2013.

Meanwhile, three district elementary schools, Cooper, Feelhaver and Butler, are expected to have their construction projects completed by the end of the month, Van Zyl said.

Cooper Elementary is having its roof replaced with a metal one and is "moving forward very well," Van Zyl said. Also receiving a new roof is Feelhaver Elementary. That project only started recently, Van Zyl said, and should be finished by the end of July or the start of August.

Butler Elementary is having four classrooms added onto its building to accommodate students relocated from the recently closed Hillcrest Elementary. According to Van Zyl, Butler was designed as a four-section building, but was only built as a three-section building.

"You have your space right there to be able to add those extra classrooms without really too many problems," he said.

At a cost of $750,000, adding classroom cost about half as much as it would have to repair Hillcrest at a cost of $1.5 million, Van Zyl said.

"If we had unlimited funds, there would be a lot more things that could be repaired," he said. "Our maintenance staff, our custodial staff, does a great job of keeping our facilities up and running, great shape for our kids., but any time you're dealing with a building that's 50, 60, 80 years old, at some point the repair costs become more expensive than replacement costs."

Work at Butler should be completed by Friday, Van Zyl said.

Van Zyl said all these projects are great for the school district and for Fort Dodge.

"It's a great thing to be able to say that we're going to have facilities that continue to meet the needs of our kids, that we're going to keep them up-to-date and upgraded so that not only can we provide a safe learning environment."

Contact Brandon L. Summers at (515) 573-2141 or



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