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Kevin Melicher, Published May 11 2013

Letter: Rethink Fargo neighborhood school concept

I have been following the discussion of the Fargo School District’s idea of building a new elementary school on the south side of Fargo and the closing of smaller elementary schools throughout the district. These were issues 20 years ago when I served on the school board. They will always be an issue in the future unless we change our thinking.

Fargo, like every city, has constantly changing neighborhood demographics. We need to change our thought process. Many of you are thinking: Why didn’t you do something about it while serving on the board? Valid point. Hindsight is always 20/20. Now, how do we approach these issues today?

First, building an elementary school at Ed Clapp Park is a great idea for many reasons. It would relieve enrollment compression at Kennedy Elementary, an area of explosive development, and also serve a need as a neighborhood school in that area. We studied that location years ago, though I forget why the idea was eliminated. What is driving young families to these new developments and areas? Many people say it is the triple garages, yards, etc., however, it is what it has always been: young families, friends and new schools for their children.

Now, let’s discuss the other issue, which I feel is as important as a new elementary school: schools with decreasing enrollment. Why not approach those areas with target school development such as foreign language, arts, music, science, math and sports? Just think what an arts, music, soccer or hockey immersion school would do to the neighborhood and their neighborhood school.

Closing neighborhood schools does more than just close the school. It affects the spirit, excitement and drive of those neighborhoods and families. It is time for the residents of Fargo, and especially the school board, to take a proactive approach and rethink how to keep these schools, neighborhoods and our city vibrant and alive.

The Minneapolis suburbs are full of older areas that continue to have re-development (even tear down and rebuild, if the house doesn’t fit a family’s needs or wants). These areas have become sought- after neighborhoods, to live in and raise a family, because of their neighborhood schools. This includes corresponding growth in property values. Fargo should do the same for its residents, families and, more importantly, its neighborhoods and students.

Melicher is a former member of the Fargo School Board.