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Published March 21 2010

Forum editorial: ‘Yes’ for W. Fargo schools

West Fargo School District voters have a chance to keep a serious problem from becoming a crisis. They should vote “yes” for a building bond referendum that will solve the current space crunch and position the district to accommodate expected growth of the student population well into the future.

The carefully developed strategy has been pared down from last year’s failed proposal. Slightly less than half of those voting last June saw it as too costly or too open-ended and voted “no.” The referendum requires 60 percent approval to pass. In last year’s vote, the “yes” vote was 51 percent.

The district’s growth has not slowed since last year’s ballot. West Fargo schools are among the fastest-growing in North Dakota. Some of the schools rival Fargo’s biggest schools in student population. Many buildings, including elementary schools, the ninth-grade academy and the high school, are near or above student capacity. Crowding is spinning off associated problems, such as long-route busing, the possibility of portable classrooms and increasing class sizes. The latter has a direct impact on classroom education.

The numbers and trends confirm that West Fargo is ready for a second high school, a second middle school and more space for kindergarten and elementary students. If nothing is done, the quality of education will be at risk. If nothing is done, the district could lose its well-earned reputation as a student-friendly, family-friendly school system. If nothing is done, mismanaged growth will result in crowding out student opportunities in athletics and other co-curricular activities.

The projected increase in school taxes is relatively modest. A $200,000 home, for example, will see about a $150 annual increase. That investment will generate long-term dividends for public education in West Fargo. It will keep the focus on education rather than on the logistics of moving students from building to building.

It makes both educational and fiscal sense to approve a plan that will solve an immediate problem and prepare the schools for future growth. A “yes” vote on Tuesday will provide the resources to strengthen the district’s foundation of excellence.

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