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Published July 25 2010

Changes ‘likely’ for Fargo district

For three years, parents of Kennedy Elementary School students have lobbied Fargo officials to redraw boundary lines to alleviate the school’s overcrowding.

District leaders got the message.

Next year, after five years of current elementary school boundaries, Fargo families will “likely” see lines change, Superintendent Rick Buresh said on Saturday.

It was one of several options the school board discussed at Saturday’s annual retreat, exploring how to balance dwindling enrollment in northside schools with overcrowding in southside schools.

“This problem isn’t going to disappear,” board President Jim Johnson said. “We’re going to have to come to some direction for our administration.”

While sprawling south Fargo growth isn’t new, officials say Kennedy Elementary has grown beyond what was predicted.

This fall will be the third year fifth-graders have been sent to Discovery Middle School to make more space.

This fall, including fifth-graders, Kennedy Elementary is projected to have 608 students, or 526 K-4 students; the school’s capacity is 572, and two portable classrooms are used there.

To deal with the growth, officials say options include adding on to the school, closing enrollment, renting kindergarten space elsewhere, busing students to north Fargo schools where there’s room, or readjusting boundaries.

It’s the latter option that the school’s PTA has repeatedly suggested.

“That would solve a lot of the issues,” PTA President Kristi Crawford said. “Any changes to get our fifth-graders back is great. They miss out on opportunities the K-4 Kennedy students have.”

Officials could start studying and holding public meetings on boundary changes this fall or winter. Until then, an art room and computer lab will likely be used as classrooms this fall to “get by,” Buresh said.

However, in two years, officials predict Bennett Elementary will face the same issue as Kennedy.

That’s why, Johnson said, the board could additionally decide to expand the two elementary schools. If so, the district won’t need a new elementary school for seven or eight years.

But if they choose not to expand – to abide by district guidelines of keeping schools with no more than four sections of a grade level – then a new school will be needed sooner.

“Realistically, we’ll probably be putting additions on a building or looking at constructing a new elementary school sometime in the next three to four years,” Johnson said. “One of those two is probably going to have to happen – which one is anybody’s guess.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515