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Helmut Schmidt, Published August 23 2012

West Fargo, Fargo public schools see enrollments climb

WEST FARGO – It was back to school and back to slightly crazier schedules for families in Fargo and West Fargo on Thursday.

Sherri Smith pulled up to the Sheyenne 9th Grade Center at 8:20 a.m., dialing her cellphone, the first forgotten item of the year sitting in her SUV.

“My son actually needed me to bring him something,” the Fargo woman said, giving her son’s phone another ring.

Inside Sheyenne, late-arriving busloads of students streamed through the commons to their classes, which were supposed to start at 8:22.

“We’re a little chaotic,” said David Gravdal, a career and technical education teacher acting as temporary traffic cop.

“We’ve got schedule changes. But it’s nice to be back,” he said.

Kristina Cooper looks forward to seeing her friends after the summer layoff, but first she had to get another schedule.

“It’s crazy,” she said. “Somebody just told me I have to come up here.”

The West Fargo School District had 8,047 students enrolled as of today. That’s 544 more students than last year at this time, the district reported.

The Fargo School District also saw its enrollment rise, with 10,857 students, up 218 from last year at this time.

Most of Fargo’s growth was at schools south of Main Avenue, the district reported. Elementary schools between main and 32nd Avenue South had 91 more students, while elementary schools south of 32nd had 76 more students.

South High School had 25 more students, while Davies High had 78 more students.

At Fargo’s Ben Franklin Middle School, Hannah Miller was loving her first day of sixth grade at Ben Franklin. She enjoyed going from class to class, and can’t wait for biology.

Miller’s science hope?

“Dissect a frog!” she said.

At Fargo North High School, the halls were dotted with students in day-glo yellow T-shirts that said “Ask Me.”

Principal Andy Dahlen said the school’s ambassadors now include sophomores, juniors and seniors, who not only guide new students around the schools but assist at other events.

North Senior Matt Connelly was one of those who took on the task.

“It takes some time” to get used to where the rooms are, he said.

Here are enrollments for other public and private schools in the area:

• At Blessed John Paul II Catholic Schools Network, classes started Thursday as well.

Enrollment in grades K-5 was 489 students. Sullivan Middle School and Shanley High School have 530 students.

• Classes started Tuesday at Oak Grove Lutheran School’s two campuses. Enrollment was 181 at its kindergarten through fifth grade elementary, 94 at the grades 6-8 middle school and 130 at the high school, Director of Admissions Deb Lackmann said.

• Classes at Northern Cass School in Hunter started Wednesday.

There were 554 students enrolled as of Thursday, 303 in grades K-6 and 251 in grades 7-12.

• Classes at Central Cass School in Casselton started Monday. Enrollment has been stable, with 804 students enrolled as of Thursday.

Enrollment for K-5 plus special needs preschool is 382. Middle school enrollment is 157. The high school grades 9-12 have 265 students, Superintendent Mark Weston said.

• Classes in Mapleton started Thursday. Enrollment at the K-6 school was 84 students, the same as last year, an administrative assistant said.

• Park Christian School, which has schools in both Fargo and Moorhead, starts Monday and declined to share early enrollment estimates.

At West Fargo’s Freedom Elementary, students and staff were enjoying their new digs.

The 550-student school, already opening full, picked up a few more students since last week, with 565 registered, said administrative assistant Melissa Heley.

The morning was “busy, very busy,” Heley said. “Everybody is in the same boat. Nobody knows where their classroom is.”

About 9 a.m., Principal Jeff Johnson led a student assembly, introducing the staff, and drawing a roar of cheers and applause as the school’s mascot, the Flyers (symbolized by the American flag), was unveiled.

“We’re making history right now,” counselor Joan Houdek said, sporting a red, white and blue sparkling headband.


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