FARGO — Fargo School Board members came up with three possible options to address overcapacity issues in south Fargo during Thursday's board meeting: year-round schools, a creative space plan, or one of the proposed boundary changes.
Several solutions were taken off the table during the meeting, including using portable classrooms, expanding class and graduation sizes, adding on to existing schools as well as schools with two "shifts."
Due to increased growth in south Fargo, Discovery Middle School and Davies High School are expected to be at capacity in the next few years.
In June, a task force recommended choices for redrawing school boundaries; however, the board may adopt a different approach instead of voting on school boundaries. The board asked the administration to present general information about each option at the board's Aug. 13 meeting.
The board is hoping to vote on one of the three proposed solutions in August. Whichever option is adopted will be a temporary measure until a new high school and a new middle school can be built in Fargo.
Several board members favored adopting year-round education for some of the schools.
Under this model, students in the overcrowded south town schools wouldn't have a traditional summer break, instead, students and teachers would have 45 days of instruction then two weeks of vacation. Students who are involved in sports would attend practice during their two-week break.
"It’s thinking outside of the box," board member Jennifer Benson said.
Under a year-round school model, a school could increase attendance by 20-25%, the board predicted because the entire school population is not present at the same time.
But this model would also require 20-25% more staff and teachers and incur additional costs, including transportation. However, it would allow students to attend the school closest to their home.
The model also has academic benefits, board president Robin Nelson said.
Some schools in the nation have moved to year-long school to combat learning loss in students during the summer.
During the work session, the board looked at an example school calendar and discussed how it may impact students and families, co-curricular activities, student employment and childcare available for parents during the school year.
Another popular option was using available space in North High School to house South High students.
Under this model, students would attend temporary classes in another building. For example, ninth-grade students at Davies might attend class at South High School. These students would still be graduates of Davies High School and may be moved back to Davies High School after several years.
This plan would keep classes of students together but doesn't address parent's concerns about students attending a school further away from their home.
Several board members emphasized the importance of keeping students together from Kindergarten through high school and not separating neighborhoods.
A continued look at boundaries
The board hasn’t taken boundary changes off the table.
Previously, a task force of community members ranked two boundary options highest.
The board did not confirm they were only considering one of the specific boundaries. Currently, they’re considering an umbrella boundary change as an option. If that option is chosen, the board will then choose a specific map.
The board discussed how proposed boundary changes would affect transpiration time and costs, the ability to grandfather students into the school, the use of petitions so students can attend the same school as their siblings or future capacity issues.
"We're trying to address a problem in south Fargo, and we might have to impact three-fourths of Fargo to address it," board member Jim Johnson said. "I have a hard time sending students in the south to the north."
The administration will present information on the three options to the board at the next board meeting on Aug. 13. The board is hoping to make a final decision by the end of August.
Readers can reach education reporter Emma Beyer, a Report For America corps member, at 701-241-5535 or firstname.lastname@example.org