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West Fargo School District considers space crunch

Next fall, some West Fargo middle school students may not be at the middle school.

Instead, about 200 of next year's sixth- and seventh-graders may move to the Lodoen Center and another 100 eighth-graders may go to Sheyenne Ninth Grade Center a year early.

District officials and school board members discussed moving forward with the likely transition at a committee meeting Wednesday, though plans aren't finalized.

The move is meant to give short-term relief for Cheney Middle School - ballooning with about 1,520 students in a building that fits ideally 1,200.

"When we're changing classes, there'll be, like, a huge traffic jam," sixth-grader Kaly Drentwett said over lunch Wednesday.

"It does get really crowded," classmate Julia McGrady added.

While the logistics of which 300 middle school students could move to Lodoen and Sheyenne have yet to be worked out, students have mixed reactions on splitting with their peers.

"I'd rather stay here," sixth-grader Stephanie Krogen said. "It's bigger here and I'm more used to this school now."

The smaller environment at Lodoen is attractive though, because you could meet new people students say.

But if there's one thing the sixth-grade lunch table did agree on: kids should be involved, they said.

And district officials said they welcome public input.

"I think the board's responsibility is to build the buildings the community wants," Superintendent Dana Diesel Wallace said.

Still, "we're going to have to sell (parents and students) on it," board member Karen Nitzkorski said of the two-year move of students to Lodoen, the past middle school.

The possible change would also mean moving programs now housed at the Lodoen Center - the community high school and refugee Newcomer Center - to Leidal Education Center, the district office.

Administrators would then need to lease or buy existing 15,000 to 20,000 square feet of office space elsewhere.

The committee will look at long-term district plans in January. It's part of an extensive process to address building space needs.

"The board doesn't want to make a decision just based on their personal preferences," Diesel Wallace said. "That takes a lot of dialogue. Decision making is not an event."

Next month, they'll look at considering:

- Two fifth- through eighth-grade middle schools to temporarily alleviate tightly packed elementary schools

- Long-term solutions for middle and high school space

- When a new elementary school - likely located on 22-acre property south of 52nd Avenue - might be built

- A bond referendum - which could be potentially in 2009 and possibly again in 2011

"I just think we're ripe for a bond for another elementary school," Nitzkorski said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515

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