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Wendy Reuer, Published January 21 2011

Kennedy Elementary looks at boundary changes

The possibility of boundary changes was parents’ main concern at the Thursday night meeting held to address overcrowding at Kennedy Elementary.

The meeting of parents and school officials came after a weekend school board retreat where the elementary school’s booming population took center stage. Additions to the school, districtwide boundary changes, or a combination of the two were looked at as favorable solutions to the school’s space needs.

Superintendent Rick Buresh said a combination proposal was the most likely option.

“Either one of those by itself would not take care of it,” Buresh said.

Kennedy would be at 129 percent capacity if it opens with 710 students in the fall as predicted. Now, portable classrooms are used as a temporary solution to the overcrowding, and fifth-graders attend Discovery Middle School.

Buresh said if an addition is built at Kennedy, the goal is for fifth grade to return in the 2012-13 school year.

The first step in the decision-making process will be for the board to approve a study of student population and boundaries.

If a boundary study is done, it would be completed by the end of the school year with changes coming in the fall of 2012, Buresh said.

Chuck Heiden said it’s imperative if the board moves forward with a boundary study to notify parents as soon as possible and then give them time to react.

“The overriding sentiment from the public has always been, ‘don’t tell us at the last minute, give us a year’s notice,’ ” Heiden said.

The boundary changes would not affect students in middle or high schools, said school board President Jim Johnson.

He said some students could be exempted from a transfer, depending on the results of the boundary study. He said this type of change is never easy but must be done.

“This is not going to be the first time, nor the last time boundaries change in the city of Fargo,” Johnson said.

Board member Linda Coates said boundary changes would not mean students would leave their neighborhood schools for those farther away.

Parent Kristina Kaiser said that was her primary concern with a boundary change.

“I think it’s the whole nervousness of losing the neighborhood school,” Kaiser said.

Parents did not dispute the need for an addition to Kennedy. Parent Jenny Aune said she would even support a whole new school for south Fargo.

“Why not consider a new school,” Aune said. “It seems like the whole city is growing south.”

Parents are asked to submit written feedback on the proposed crowding solutions to Kennedy Principal Maggie Mitzel by Monday.

Buresh said if the board approves a boundary study Tuesday, work would begin immediately.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530