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Nearly 1,000 WF school students could be in new schools next fall

An artist's rendering of Willow Park Elementary School, the West Fargo School District's newest elementary school being built in Fargo. YHR Partners.

WEST FARGO—Nearly 1,000 students in the West Fargo School District could be going to a new elementary school next fall.

A task force made up of principals and parent representatives from each elementary school in West Fargo are finalizing a plan to recommend new school boundaries for next school year. That task force is expected to bring its new boundary recommendations to the School Board meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at Leidal Education Center, 207 Main Avenue West.

The proposed new boundary map was not available as of Friday. If the School Board approves the plan Monday, the district will hold four informational meetings.

The new boundaries are needed to prepare for the opening of the new Willow Park Elementary School, 4901 15th Ave. S. in Fargo, as well as the district's plan to have kindergarden classes in every elementary school starting next year. Today, most of the district's kindergartners are in two kindergarten-only centers.

Beth Slette, assistant superintendent for elementary schools, said less than 20 percent of the district's students will have to change schools next fall. However, the majority of that number are students who will attend Willow Park Elementary when it opens.

Heather Sand, director of curriculum and instruction, said of all the students changing schools, about 400 will be moving to Willow Park.

Slette said many of those students are now being bused longer distances to other schools.

She said the task force considered a number of factors when drawing new boundaries, such as stability—or lines that could remain unchanged for a long time—proximity to schools, balance of class size, demographics and the capacity of schools.

Boundary changes are not new to West Fargo Public Schools. The fast-growing district has opened six new elementary schools in about as many years to accommodate its booming student population. The district has had to change boundaries each year a new school has opened.

"We do understand it's difficult for families," Slette said.

The district began to start having kindergarten classes at all of its elementary schools after passing a $98.1 million bond in 2015. Osgood Kindergarten Center became Osgood Elementary School earlier this year and added classes through second grade. Next year, it will house kindergarten through fifth grade.

The Lodoen Kindergarten Center will be used for some preschool classes and could one day become a preschool site for many more children, Superintendent David Flowers has said.

However, the transition to having kindergarten classes in each school could make some older students change schools.

"When you're adding kindergarten classes, someone will have to move to make room," Slette said.

The district has added about 400 more students each year, a boom that will likely continue for the next 10 years. It is expected to surpass Fargo's student population in the next two years.

In the new boundaries are approved at Monday night's School Board meeting, upcoming new boundary meetings will be held:

• 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 at Eastwood Elementary School

• 6:30 p.m. Nov. 21 at Osgood Elementary School

• 7 p.m. Nov. 29 at Westside Elementary School

• 6 p.m Dec. 5 at Aurora Elementary School

Some boundary changes will likely occur again in 2019 when a new elementary school in the far-south Deer Creek neighborhood opens. Construction on that school is slated to begin next spring.

Wendy Reuer

Wendy reports for The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer, where she is also assistant editor. A University of Minnesota Morris graduate from North Dakota, Wendy started her career in television news and entertainment in Minnesota and at CBS in Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

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