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Helmut Schmidt, Published April 22 2013

Eagles Center, Agassiz could be temporary fix for Kennedy crowding

FARGO – The Eagles Education Center and Agassiz School could both help take enrollment pressure off Kennedy Elementary School in a plan offered by Fargo School District administrators Monday to a school board facilities panel.

Kennedy has 731 students now, but projections show it will open this fall with 791 students, and in 2014-15 could have 842 students, Assistant Superintendent Bob Grosz said.

All of the school’s 34 classrooms are in use, as are some common areas, a conference room, and a portable classroom for teaching orchestra, computer skills, English Language Learners, occupational and physical therapy, and other needs.

The Eagles/Agassiz plan and other proposals give school board members options to buy time. The board wants to create a new 10-year facilities plan, and then decide where to build another southside elementary school.

The plan goes to the full school board today.

Enrollment-shuffling options were shown to Kennedy parents last week.

The administration’s recommended plan takes kindergarten, first- and second-grade students in the Kennedy attendance area of Bluemont Lakes and sends them to the Eagles Education Center for the 2013-14 school year.

It follows up by sending that area’s kindergarten through third-grade students to the Eagles Center, 3502 S. University Drive, for the 2014-15 school year.

That moves 112 students from Kennedy for 2013-14 and 120 in 2014-15, creating four extra classroom spaces in Kennedy each year, Grosz said.

Early childhood special education and Head Start classes now at the Eagles Center would go to Agassiz School.

That part of the plan requires at least $200,000 in renovations for more bathrooms and a handicap-accessible ramp, Business Manager Broc Lietz said.

Another option moves all Kennedy attendance area kindergartners to the Eagles Center. It takes 92 students from Kennedy for 2013-14 and 41 students in 2014-15.

That opens about four classrooms the first year at Kennedy, but the number drops to two in 2014-15.

A third option is familiar: moving Kennedy’s fifth-graders to Discovery Middle School. But it’s the least effective, Grosz said.

In 2013-14, the move would put 101 fifth-graders at Discovery and open two classrooms at Kennedy.

In 2014-15, there would be 131 fifth-graders in Discovery, and Kennedy would still be down to one open classroom, Grosz said.

Some board members were uneasy about moving just Bluemont Lakes residents.

Board member Rick Steen said the board would move too many families around to fix a Kennedy school-area problem

“I just have a real problem with what we’re doing. It’s very efficient, and it’s very easy. I just don’t feel right about it,” Steen said.

New Kennedy-area students should perhaps be bused to other schools, board member Kris Wallman said, adding she, too, didn’t like shifting so many students around.

But board member Dinah Goldenberg said keeping the Bluemont Lakes classmates together could be helpful.

“There is no perfect solution, no matter what. In all of the pieces, this is the best possible solution,” Goldenberg said.

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