5 things to know today: Boundary changes, School mandates, Employee vaccinations, Oversight board, Scenic Byway
A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
1. West Fargo parents concerned over potential boundary changes after new high school opens
As the West Fargo School District prepares to consider boundary changes that will send some elementary school students to Heritage Middle School and Horace High School instead of Liberty and Sheyenne High School, some parents are concerned it will affect the opportunities available to their children.
The West Fargo School District's third middle school, Heritage Middle School opened in Horace in 2020 and Horace High School opened fall of 2021 with ninth and tenth graders attending school.
The district recently released an informational video that showed potential boundary changes that would change Aurora Elementary School, Osgood Elementary School and the new school planned for the Rocking Horse Farm neighborhood of Fargo into schools that feed into the Horace High School system instead of the Sheyenne High School feeder system.
Superintendent Beth Slette said boundary changes are needed now because while the district has been planning on about 300 to 400 new students each year for nearly a decade, the district grew by 600 new students this school year. Most of those are moving into the neighborhoods south of Interstate 94. This has caused crowding especially at Freedom and Independence Elementary Schools as well as Liberty Middle School and Sheyenne High School.
2. As COVID cases climb, Fargo, Moorhead school districts still poised to end mask mandates
As Moorhead and Fargo public schools begin to phase out mask requirements, administrators are hearing a litany of arguments for and against stricter mitigation strategies.
But the districts aren’t planning on making any changes yet, even as the omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly across the metro area and the county.
The latest Fargo Public Schools update reported that 137 students tested positive for COVID-19 during the week of Jan. 3-7, and since the beginning of the school year a total of 1,117 students have tested positive. The district is set to end their mask requirement on Jan. 17.
West Fargo Public Schools has recommended masks but not required them since the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. The district’s latest report filed on Tuesday, Jan. 11, indicated 82 students and actively had COVID-19 — nearly double the 43 active student cases as of the previous Friday. There have been 1,391 West Fargo students who contracted COVID-19 since the beginning of the school year.
3. At the Capitol, Democrats require employee COVID-19 vaccine or test, Republicans await court guidance
Democratic leaders at the Capitol this week said they were preparing to tighten COVID-19 restrictions for employees and interns amid the spread of the omicron variant.
Administrators in the Republican-led Senate, meanwhile, said they'd wait for a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court to firm up their course.
The announcements came after the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set in place emergency rules requiring shots or regular tests for employers with 100 workers or more. The high court is weighing the rule, along with another that mandates vaccinations for workers at facilities that pull in Medicare and Medicaid funds.
Assuming the court allows the policy to stand, DFL House leaders said employees and interns would need to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination by Feb. 9 or document a negative COVID-19 test on a weekly basis. Those working remotely wouldn't have to show proof of their immunization or tests.
4. Applications open for Fargo police oversight board
Applications are open for a position on the first Fargo Police Advisory & Oversight Board.
The start to the new venture was announced at the Fargo City Commission meeting on Monday night, Jan. 10.
Applications or "statements of interest" are available on the city's website and will remain open until a "sufficient number" of applicants are received.
Residents can also submit a written application to the City Commission Office, Fargo City Hall, 225 Fourth Street North, Fargo, ND, 58102, or by calling the office at 701-241-1310.
Police Chief David Zibolski announced the next step in the forming of the panel in a video that's also available on the city website.
The seven-member board, he said, will help improve community relations and offer more transparency about the department's operations.
5. Landowners, conservationists worry MNDoT will 'clear-cut' trees along Lake Country Scenic Byway
A road project that calls for removing trees along one of Minnesota’s most picturesque byways has landowners and conservationists concerned and calling for a different approach.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation plans to thin the trees along the roadway and will hold a virtual public meeting about it this week to seek input.
The project, estimated at $9 million, will resurface Highway 34 in an area between Detroit Lakes and Park Rapids in the summer of 2023.
The stretch is part of what’s known as the Lake Country Scenic Byway, one of 22 designated roadways in the state.
Matt Davis, co-president of the Prairie Woods Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, a longstanding conservation organization, said the scenic byway shouldn’t be treated like any other road.