A new beginning

Fort Dodge Middle School celebrated its completion Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in its auditorium.

FDMS administrators, along with Fort Dodge Community School District board members and representatives of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, cut two ribbons, one green and one red, before an audience of 50.

A project years in the planning, FDMS had its groundbreaking in September 2011 and was completed in August for the start of the 2013-14 school year.

Ed Birnbaum, FDMS principal, said the night was an excellent opportunity for the community to see not only the school, but its auditorium.

“It’s quite different from when we did the tours in mid- to late August before school started. Limited access, and the auditorium wasn’t done,” he said. “Now, they’ll be able to come in and get the full feel of the auditorium. I think it is a great addition.”

Birnbaum said he enjoys being steward of the new school, which has been open for three months.

“It’s exciting, very different from something I’ve been used to in the past. And there’s a lot of challenges that we’ll continue to work through,” he said. “I commend our downtown administration and even more so our teachers in the classroom, the people on the ground level. Those guys have come from two different buildings that had entirely different looks, walked into it blind not knowing what to expect … and our staff, our teachers, have done a great job of stepping up to that challenge.”

School board member Bill Kent said he is pleased with the new middle school.

“It came out very close to what we imagined,” he said. “It’s not easy, of course, when you’re looking at the designs and talking about plans and everything, but I’m very pleased. I think anybody who walks around here has got to be pretty pleased.”

Kent has served on the school board since plans were first made to build a single middle school building, and said he appreciates being a part of the school’s history.

“When we first start talking about combining the middle schools and what would that mean and what kind of layout, what kind of classroom situation you would have, and of course the auditorium conversation, it was close,” he said. “It wasn’t overwhelming that the funding was available for the auditorium, but we managed to work it out.”

Stuart Cochrane, FDCSD board president, said it is satisfying to see the efforts of so many people be realized.

“It is something that was the brainstorm of a lot of different people over a lot of different years, from the time we first started talking about what do we do with Fair Oaks and Phillips (middle schools), to the consideration of buying land, all the way to seeing this thing built,” he said. “It seems like the culmination of years of vision by so many people. It’s so cool.”

For Cochrane, the completed auditorium was especially symbolic.

“It makes you realize it’s more than just a school for kids, it really is a community project and it really is something the whole community can embrace and use for years,” he said. “Kids for generations will have the opportunity to walk in this building. We feel like we’ve really done something to benefit everybody.”

Doug Van Zyl, FDCSD superintendent, said it was a great feeling to oversee the creation of a new building that will endure for generations.

“It’s really heartwarming to see the community come out and support this,” he said. “And it’s also very moving to be able to be involved knowing this is something our community has needed and wanted, but also the impact it’s going to have on our students for years and years to come.”