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Helmut Schmidt, Published October 27 2010

Fargo weighs school enrollment boundary changes

The Fargo School Board voted to start the first of several “baby steps” in a process that could possibly change enrollment boundaries for several schools in the next one to two years.

The board voted 8-0 on Tuesday to have Superintendent Rick Buresh and his staff prepare a kindergarten through 12th grade enrollment management study plan.

That plan would lay out the processes the board would use if it needed to eventually change the boundaries of schools, from studies of enrollment and capacity of each school, to public input, to eventual implementation.

Those are among the many “baby steps” that need to be taken to ensure the process moves smoothly, board President Jim Johnson said.

Boundary changes districtwide would, if needed, come in the 2012-13 school year, giving plenty of time for parents and students to be prepared for the adjustment, board members agreed.

In the meantime, the board may also have to consider changes in the boundaries of schools south of Interstate 94 for 2011-12, they agreed.

The issue came to a head with overcrowding at Kennedy Elementary. The southwest sector elementary is so full that fifth-graders must attend class at Discovery Middle School.

Board members agreed to have the administration prepare a report on what would be needed to handle increased enrollments at Kennedy next fall.

And they agreed to a suggestion by Johnson to examine the guidelines for making boundary changes at their next retreat, expected to take place early in 2011.

Planning Committee Chairman Rick Steen said the group studied converting other educational spaces, such as music and art rooms and computer labs, into classrooms; adding portable classrooms, building additions, or busing students to northside schools, in addition to potential school boundary changes.

While the district’s overall enrollment has leveled off, changes in demographics still have southside school enrollments growing by about 80 students per year, Steen said.

“We can’t ignore it. We’ve got to get going on it now,” he said of planning for accommodating those students.

Steen said the potential effects on middle school and high school boundaries were also discussed, as shifting elementary boundaries could affect the secondary school feeder system.

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