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Helmut Schmidt, Published August 23 2010

2 Fargo schools to meet under one roof

Fargo South High School will be the site of an interesting experiment this year: two high schools’ worth of students, two sets of varsity teams, one building.

When classes start Wednesday, at least 1,550 students will flood the halls of South, school officials said.

About half of the sophomores and juniors will be Bruins. The other half will be Davies High Eagles, who must wait a year for their building to open.

Feeling stuck in the middle of all of this is Toni Froysland, a South sophomore who plays basketball and softball.

She laments that her friends will play for the Eagles.

“The majority of girls I play with, I’ve known them since they were little,” Froysland said, frustration creeping into her voice. “Oh, you’re Eagles. Great.”

Froysland expects that when the big matchups in football and basketball start, the talons and claws may show as school spirit heats up.

“I think it’s going to be very rival-tastic,” she predicts.

One of her friends, Jami Larson, a Davies sophomore, said it will add a little extra zing to being the new kid in school.

“The first day is going to be rough,” Larson said. “We’re going to be sophomores, and we’re going to be Davies.”

Sophomore Alana Grabarkewitz, another Froysland buddy playing for the Eagles, agrees that life in the halls could get crazy at times.

“At some point, it’s going to be awkward,” she said.

The principals of the two schools are Todd Bertsch, who runs South High, and Jeff Schatz, who is coordinating the building of the Davies’ staff, monitoring activities and keeping an eye on construction of the new school.

Neither expects big problems with this odd transition year, but they’re still watching closely.

“From what I’ve seen with the kids,” it’s working well, Schatz said. “It’s that whole uncomfortableness. The kids pretty much know that” from having spent a similar year at South Campus II together.

“Really, it will be what it will be. And I think it will be good,” Schatz said.

Schatz will be working out of an office at South Campus II, the former Agassiz Junior High.

Bertsch expects some hiccups and learning through the transition.

But South has had a lot of diversity within its building, he said. Creating a new identity for Davies in the same walls will be a new challenge.

“That will be just another life skill that will be enhanced at an earlier life stage,” Bertsch said. “We’ll respect ourselves, respect each other, and do the best that we can. It’s a simple message.”

Once Davies is open, district officials expect the enrollments of all of Fargo’s schools to be balanced. Davies and South will be at 1,100 students each, and North will have about 1,050.

Fargo also has Woodrow Wilson High School, which is considered a community alternative high school. That school moves to South Campus II next fall.

“The parents and the Davies community have formed their own identities, own events, own PTA,” Superintendent Rick Buresh said.

Buresh said he expects the competition between South and Davies to be intense during games and then students will ride home with each other.

“Kids are remarkably adaptable,” he said. “It’s us big people that struggle with it more.”

Buresh said students, to a large extent, take their cues from the adults around them. “It’s incumbent on us to be positive.”

Ian McDonald, a sophomore, wore his South football uniform as he sat last week in the office, waiting for a counseling session.

The wide receiver and outside linebacker said a few of his friends will be Eagles.

“Bruins are going to kick some butt. …They made their choice to line up opposite me,” he said.

Still, what happens on the playing field stays on the playing field, McDonald said.

South senior Allie Kollman also doesn’t expect there to be big problems this year.

“There’s going to be some drama, but that’s high school,” she said.

And Froysland is counting on friendship to trump game scores.

“True friends stick through anything,” she said.

Other district issues

Several other issues need to be addressed by the district, Buresh said.

  • Dealing with enrollment and facilities management.

    There is an exploding student population at Kennedy Elementary School on the city’s south side, Buresh said.

    Other schools are also struggling with declines or increases in enrollment, he said.

  • Selling the Woodrow Wilson High School building and land and 40 acres of land north of Davies High.

  • Completing a remodeling of South Campus II to prepare it next fall to hold students from Woodrow Wilson.

  • Hiring a new business manager. The district must replace former Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Dan Huffman. He handled a range of duties including budgets, teacher contract talks, legislative lobbying and school construction oversight.

    Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583