Candidates talk about facilities

With three seats being contested in Tuesday’s Fort Dodge Community School District school board election, the seven candidates are speaking this week about issues important to the community.

Randal Funchess, Lisa Shimkat, William Offerman, Troy Schroeder and John F. Williams, as well as incumbents Brian Forsythe and Stuart Cochrane, recently offered statements about Fort Dodge Middle School and the district’s elementary and senior high buildings.

Schroeder said some of the district’s buildings should be upgraded or another new school built.

“I know the funds aren’t really there right now, but I do know there are some concerns as far as Duncombe (Elementary) goes, as far as the high school goes,” he said. “I was a parent to a kid who went through Duncombe, I do see some needs there, and it’s been brought to my attention some of the needs and upgrades that need to be done through the high school, as well. It’s something as a school board, whether that be now or 10 years from now, it’s definitely going to be an issue.”

Williams said there is a need for some improvement.

“I know there are buildings that need repair or to be replaced,” he said. “One question at the forum, for example, dealt with replacing Duncombe. It’s a great idea. The high school is at least 50 years old and needs some serious work. Duncombe is a great idea, but these issues will need to be dealt with down the road.”

Shimkat said progress should continue to be made with improvements.

“With the high school there’s a lot to be done just to get it up to code, and we do have a strategic plan for all the facilities,” she said. “And I think Fort Dodge needs to be extremely proud right now of our new middle school and the efficiencies we’re able to take advantage of there, and grow upon the momentum we have in getting these facilities for our kids.”

Funchess said he approves of the work the district has done regarding its facilities.

“They have done an exceptional job with the new middle school and the implementation of the road that was placed in front of the high school to facilitate traffic arrangements, which also might ease the congestion and makes it safer for the children,” he said. “I believe we’re not at a completion state, by any means, as far as facilities go, but we have some good facilities in place here.”

Offerman said while the new middle school is great, other improvements could be made.

“The high school is getting older. I think if we can find ways to continue to repair and rehab that, it would be fantastic,” he said. “But then our elementaries are also getting older. Unfortunately, we can’t do everything at once. In a perfect world, we’d be able to update schools and build new schools, but unfortunately we’re not able to do that on a year-to-year basis.”

Forsythe, a member of the FDCSD board for seven years, said work needs to continue in the district.

“Obviously, we just had the new middle school that’s coming on. That’s going to help us tremendously, getting rid of two older buildings, but we definitely have facility needs both at the high school and in the grade schools that’s going to need to be addressed here very soon,” he said.

Cochrane, FDCSD board president and member for 17 years, said he is happy with Fort Dodge Middle School, its implementation and construction.

“In terms of other facilities we have a challenge,” he said. “The high school has some real challenges, not just in terms of upgrades but codes and basic necessities that are going to be facing us over the next four years and probably well beyond that. We have aging elementary schools that we, as a community, are going to have to continue to evaluate when the right time is to make some major investments and that will be a difficult decision, because it’s not always agreed upon in a community when the time will be.”