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David Huebner, Fargo, Published May 25 2013

Letter: Our small schools are not inefficient

There has been much talk recently regarding the Fargo School District’s long- range facility planning process and, like any good topic, opinions on what should be done with the district’s schools are not difficult to come by. A common theme amongst those championing the consolidation of the district’s smaller schools is that they are inefficient, particularly the paired schools of Horace Mann/Roosevelt and Clara Barton/Hawthorne.

At first glance, it would seem logical that combining two buildings into one would reap a large economic reward. However, the actual numbers tell a much different story.

A full 75 percent of the district’s $123 million annual budget is spent on personnel; however, the consolidation of paired schools would do little to reduce the number of classroom teachers, administrators and support staff required. In fact, in terms of staffing per student, these multibuilding campuses are completely indistinguishable from their nonpaired counterparts of a similar size. In addition, district-provided figures of facility operational costs suggest that a consolidation could save the district $25,000 – 0.02 percent of the total budget, annually.

While running an efficient school district should be, and is, an important focus of the school board, spending tens of millions of dollars to save tens of thousands is missing the forest for the trees. What little can be saved from consolidating the district’s paired facilities does not justify the upfront and long-term economic, social and educational costs of what would be an incredibly neighborhood-damaging decision.