A West Fargo School District task force, known as the Long Range Facility Planning Task Force, is considering options and alternatives regarding student growth and crowding in schools. This task force is the third of its kind since 2010 and will likely deliver short term and long-term solutions sometime in March or April 2018.
According to David Flowers, superintendent of West Fargo public schools, the school district has seen a growth of 400-500 students every year. Liberty Middle School will be at capacity by fall 2018 and is believed to surpass its 1,200 capacity by 2019. The district’s second high school, Sheyenne, with a capacity of 1,500 students, could have more than 1,800 students by 2021, far exceeding a sustainable capacity. The district is expected to surpass Fargo School District enrollment within the next five years.
The previous task forces for the school district submitted recommendations that resulted in two bond referendums. The first, in 2011, resulted in $82.5 million funding for projects, and the second, in 2015, approved $98.1 million in funding.
The funding from the first referendum brought about three elementary schools, Liberty Middle School and the Sheyenne Ninth Grade Center, which later became the school district’s second high school.
The 2015 referendum ushered in two new elementary schools, one on each side of Interstate 94, a pool, a hockey facility, a transportation center and renovations to most of the district’s buildings.
The district asked voters less than two years ago to pass a bond referendum with the hope and expectation that another bond would not be needed for at least another few years. However, rapid growth in West Fargo is evident as schools begin running out of space, with a 2018 kindergarten class of 974 students, nearly double the number that was expected.
The task force is composed of about 44 parents, school staff, business people and community members from Horace, Fargo, Harwood and West Fargo. School district administrators make up some of the task force, but are not given voting privileges.
Superintendent Flowers anticipates the group meeting at least five more times, or once a month, before March or April, the proposed target date. Flowers states, “The recommendations will likely include scenarios to deal with short term overcrowding expected at Liberty Middle School on the south side over the next couple of years, and at Sheyenne High School. In addition, the task force will suggest solutions for the longer term, which could include consideration of a third middle school and high school.”
The 2015 task force considered a recommendation to the school board and the voters asking for a higher bond that would have created a new middle school, with a 600 capacity, and a third high school, with an 800 capacity. However, the task force made the decision against the recommendation, and the two buildings were not proposed.
The new task force is seriously considering the idea of a third middle school and high school for the school district, but a decision is not expected until spring of 2018.