Zimmerman Elementary School isn’t facing the wrecking ball.
The Wahpeton School Board has approved full remediation of the building’s mold problem, including repairs and a roof replacement. A unanimous vote was made Wednesday, Oct. 13.
With their vote, the school board approved a $1,784,085 project, made possible through the third installment of the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund.
Wahpeton Public Schools received an allocation of just less than $3.5 million, Superintendent Rick Jacobson said. The allocation came with the stipulation that 20 percent, approximately $688,000 total, had to be allocated for addressing learning loss.
“This left just over $2.7 million that could be used on other COVID-19-related projects,” Jacobson said. “Since we’re dealing with air quality at Zimmerman, this was considered a relevant project.”
On Aug. 19, 2021, Jacobson and Zimmerman Principal Rosemary Hardie confirmed that the school would not begin the 2021-2022 education year in its building at 508 Ninth St. N., Wahpeton.
“Mold was uncovered in two rooms,” Daily News previously reported. “While the problem was mitigated in the two rooms, mold was also uncovered in a third room. Following an air quality test, the district was advised to suspend use of the Zimmerman building until a full cleaning process is completed.”
Zimmerman’s kindergarteners are currently learning at Wahpeton Elementary School, 1235 12th St. N. The temporary move has been known as “ZE at WE.”
“Our students are still here and they’ve adjusted quite well,” Hardie said. “Five-year-olds go with the flow. We can learn from them quite a lot.”
Wahpeton Elementary School and Wahpeton Middle School made accommodations for underclassmen. The elementary provided second grade classrooms and space for the kindergarteners, with the second graders using fifth grade classrooms and space. The fifth graders were reassigned to the adjoining middle school.
“It’s been emotional. It’s been a whirlwind of a year. It’s wonderful to know the future. It was impressive to see staff, teachers and students, when presented with a difficult situation, to come together and do the best for the situation that we have. I’m happy to know what the future will hold,” Hardie said.
Remediation and repair of the Zimmerman Elementary School building is the right thing to do for many reasons, according to Jacobson.
“Zimmerman’s staff can’t wait to get back,” he said. It’s a nice building. Things are sized right for kindergarten-age (students). It’s still a good building for its age and it’s good that we can get moving on this.”
Jacobson reiterated that no general fund money will be used on the project. It will all come from the ESSER III fund.
The $1,784,085 cost includes quoted prices of $185,668 from roofing contractor MJ Dalsin Co. of ND Inc.; $524,226.86 from ServiceMaster for remediation and demolition of areas with mold exposure; and $1,074,190 from general contractor Gast Construction.
“Comstock and Gast both stated that the building was structurally sound. Remediating the mold issues will let us hang onto a very nice building for at least another 20 years,” Jacobson said.
Using ESSER III funds will also allow Wahpeton Public Schools to continue with ongoing payment arrangements, including the ones set in place once the high school gymnasium and Zimmerman itself were remodeled in 2005.
“I’m just thankful that the school board was able to look at all the information available to them and made the decision that was best for the district, the school community and the taxpayers,” Hardie said. “They took the time to pause and to gather information and look during that time. They’ve kept their promise to their taxpayers, which is not to raise taxes. I think that shows integrity and character.”
Wahpeton Public Schools is awaiting final approval for the Zimmerman project from the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (DPI), Jacobson said. He anticipates that classes will resume at Zimmerman Elementary School for the 2022-2023 education year.
“We also have close to $1 million (remaining) for other projects, which could be windows and doors and other uses. We’ll focus on it in the next year,” Jacobson said.
In other news, the Wahpeton School Board unanimously accepted the resignations of Mary Julson as high school resource room teacher, Patty Cook as early childhood special education paraprofessional, Tabitha Dodge as high school and middle school library paraprofessional and Anna Brown as elementary resource room paraprofessional.
The board also unanimously approved hiring Cade Bestland as high school director of music for Wahpeton High School’s upcoming musical. “The 57th National Mathlete Sum-It,” directed by Courtney Diestler, will premiere Thursday, Nov. 18.
Other individuals hired by the Wahpeton School Board included Lucinda Wallner, high school and middle school library paraprofessional, and Angela Theede, elementary school resource room paraprofessional.
Board Director Kathleen Dimmer was absent from Wednesday’s meeting.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10 at the district office, located within Wahpeton High School.