The Fargo School Board should delay making a hard and fast decision about elementary and secondary school boundary changes. The board is scheduled to vote at today’s meeting, but there are enough questions and enough upset among those who would be affected to dedicate more time for the discussion, explanation and justification phase of the process.
Board members believe they’ve analyzed the topic as comprehensively as it can be analyzed. They believe the changes they anticipate should be done quickly in order to first, give families time to adjust, and second, address in a timely fashion the growth and shifts in student populations.
Fair enough. There is little doubt boundary adjustments should be made in order to keep class sizes within the district’s educational parameters, and to maximize utilization of all school buildings. But as long as district patrons are not satisfied with boundary changes as proposed, the board has an obligation to maintain an open and respectful dialogue. Shutting that door now by locking in proposed changes at today’s meeting is not the best way to encourage and enhance trust between board members and the public they serve.
That being said, some of the objections to the board’s plans are about direct impacts on specific neighborhoods rather than what’s best for all students and families in the district. A few of the loudest voices that don’t like the boundary changes want to see a 10-year blueprint that, they say, would be more assuring for affected elementary school neighborhoods as students move to middle schools. Sounds nice, but the reality of ever-changing student numbers mandates a look-see at boundaries more frequently than once every decade.
Also, there comes a time when neighborhood-centric objections, no matter how sincere, must be weighed against greater interests of the entire school district. The majority of the board and the district administration think the time is at hand. District patrons in affected neighborhoods want more time to consider more options.
The board has an overriding responsibility to listen, sometimes more than some board members think is necessary. That mandate should not be minimized, and therefore, a delay in a final boundary decision is not too much to ask.
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