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Helmut Schmidt, Published January 21 2011

West Fargo tackles district growth

School building scenarios ranging from $60.1 million to $78.5 million were offered Thursday to a West Fargo group creating a plan to deal with the school district’s rapid enrollment growth.

All of the scenarios include expanding Sheyenne Ninth Grade Center into a high school, building a new middle school, creating a ninth-grade academy at West Fargo High School, and building at least one new elementary school.

Options for a second elementary run from building new right away, building new at an enrollment trigger point, or expanding Horace Elementary.

Superintendent David Flowers cautions that the options are not set and will likely change as the group weighs the costs of opening several new schools and whether the district can afford the staff, maintenance, utilities, transportation and other expenses.

“We have to be able to answer those questions” for voters once the school board decides to take the issue to the public to decide, Flowers said.

Members of the Long Range Facility Planning Task Force agree that the district will need to build space.

Enrollment was 7,178 this fall with preschoolers included, but is expected to climb to 9,206 by the 2015-2016 school year, with increases in students at all grade levels.

“We have a growing school district. We have the responsibility to be sure these kids get a good education,” said task force member Frank Lenzmeier. “It’s something we can’t avoid. It’s something we have to face, and do it.”

The task force found broad agreement on several points, among them to turn Sheyenne into a high school, build a new middle school, and the need for two elementary schools.

District staff offered several options for discussion:

The price tags prompted words of caution.

“We all know what we want, but what can we pass?” school board member Dave Olson asked the group.

District voters turned down two previous bond referendums.

The group will meet again Feb. 9.

Flowers said he hopes to be able to present the group’s recommendations to the school board at its retreat later in February.

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