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Helmut Schmidt, Published October 22 2013

Fargo School Board strikes language specifying boundary changes affecting Jefferson, Clara Barton/Hawthorne

FARGO – The School Board is leaving its options open for balancing enrollment among the city’s secondary schools.

In a first reading of its long-range facilities plan, the board agreed by consensus Tuesday to strike language that stated some students from two center-city elementary schools would have to go to middle and high school on the north side of town at some time in the future.

The plan originally said “attendance boundaries in the mid-to-south elementary schools (Jefferson and Clara Barton/Hawthorne) will need to be adjusted to move some fifth-grade students to Ben Franklin Middle School and Fargo North High School at the minimum.”

Board member Kris Wallman said the proposed solution was premature.

“I really don’t feel deep down that we’ve exhausted the possibilities of open enrollment,” Wallman said before the language was struck.

Wallman also didn’t like that an elementary school site east of Davies High School was described as the next place to build once a school is built in Ed Clapp Park in Bluemont Lakes.

But Superintendent Jeff Schatz said growth in that area of Fargo is taking off.

“The Davies site will be needed,” Schatz said. “You will need a school there eventually and probably next.”

Enrollment at Discovery Middle School on the far south side will also continue to grow rapidly. Because of that, an expansion of that school will also be needed, he said.

Schatz said updates on new housing developments in south and southwest Fargo are coming from the city planner’s office “almost monthly.”

The district will closely track three developments planned in north Fargo, and an idea by North Dakota State University officials to create housing for professors and graduate assistants, all of which could spur student numbers.

“We’re going to have to track this carefully for the next couple of years,” he said.

Schatz said it’s important for the school board to acquire land for schools now in the growth areas, before land prices skyrocket.

Board members were also concerned about an envisioned floodwall along the Second Street corridor in the city’s downtown that could affect the district’s warehouse and food service building.

The current plan puts the warehouse “in the bulls eye,” of construction, Schatz said.

The city wants to have a floodwall plan ready by 2015 and completed by 2016-17, he said.

The district’s facilities plan calls for:

E Breaking ground on a new elementary school in Ed Clapp Park this spring for completion in time for school in fall 2015.

E Starting installation of air conditioning in Clara Barton, Horace Mann, Lewis and Clark, Madison, McKinley and Roosevelt elementary schools this summer.

E Breaking ground on another elementary school in spring 2018 to be completed by fall 2019.

E Breaking ground on an addition to Discovery Middle School in spring 2019 to be completed by that fall.

The second reading of the plan is Nov. 12.

In other business, the board voted 6-0 to work with the county to secure the Doublewood Inn for three days of early voting next March when it will ask the public for approval to maintain its mill levy.

Administrators will also be asked to work with county officials to find up to nine voting sites, which could include some schools.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583