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Published October 15 2009

Forum editorial: West Fargo schools on the mend

There’s good news, for a change, in the West Fargo School District. Early results of a survey of school district patrons finds good support for a scaled-back building bond levy. Of the returned surveys, 74 percent indicate support for a smaller levy than the $65 million proposal that failed to get the required 60 percent approval a few months ago.

Since the vote (about half of the voters supported the previous levy), school board members and district officials conducted a communication and information campaign that included the current survey. But even without the poll, a lot of listening has been done by school officials. The smaller building levy is one result of what appears to be improved communication between the schools and the people who pay for the schools.

There’s little doubt the district needs new buildings and building improvements. The district is growing rapidly. Space is squeezed now and will be squeezed more as student populations grow. Few have questioned the need for adding more space and other facilities to the district. But the proposal advanced a few months ago ran into a couple of buzz saws. First, the district was experiencing self-made communication and public relations problems. Second, as the economy began to turn sour, $65 million looked too ambitious – or risky – for about half of the voters. The opposition was based on a double whammy that eroded any chance of securing 60 percent voter approval, which is required for school levy votes.

West Fargo schools are among the region’s best. The district’s facilities, have, until now, been more than adequate. Explosive growth, however, is loading stress not only on buildings, but also on personnel. More investment has to be made in order to address a growth trend that looks to be nothing but up.

The district has been negotiating a rough patch. Disenchantment with administrators and board members was a factor in the defeat of the early building proposal. Voters sent a message to district officials to be more transparent and responsive. School officials listened and reacted the right way.

The district’s parents and teachers have too much invested in students to be occupied by avoidable sideshows. It looks like West Fargo schools have taken initial steps to get back on the road to the kind of progress for which the district has been known for years.

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