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Published June 25 2009

Forum editorial: Do-over for West Fargo schools

Another vote as soon as possible on West Fargo’s school building proposal is the right way to go. A $65 million school building and renovation plan was defeated two weeks ago when slightly more than half of voters approved the measure. State law requires 60 percent approval.

Returning to the polls with a revised, possibly streamlined plan makes sense for several reasons.

First, a vote as early as October would come just after students go back to school. The crowding that has been obvious for the past few years would be even more visible because the district’s student population is up considerably.

Second, a very small percentage of eligible voters turned out for the recent vote, which suggests many of those who would have voted “yes,” did not vote because they assumed the bond issue would pass easily. But students of the ballot know that “antis” tend to turn out in greater percentages, so a small overall turnout favors “no” voters. The results of the first vote likely would stir “yes” voters to come out for the second vote.

Third, School Board members and administrators have an opportunity to refine the plan to make it more palatable to taxpayers. One rap on the measure that failed was that it was too open-ended and not specific enough in its intentions.

Fourth, returning to the polls with the expectation that a better plan would pass would avoid the School District’s having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for temporary fixes to the crowding problem, such as portable classrooms in several locations.

There is little debate about the growth of the district. Increases of 400-plus students a year require more classroom space, more materials and equipment and more staff. Stresses on the district’s budget are caused by growth and school patrons’ demands that the quality of classroom education be maintained and enhanced. Those factors are the primary motivations for funding new buildings and renovating old ones. The sooner West Fargo schools present voters with a new and improved building proposal, the better.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.