FARGO — The Fargo School Board is under pressure to decide how to handle a student capacity crunch at Davies High School and Discovery Middle School in south Fargo.
“At some point, we have to rip off the Band-Aid,” Superintendent Rupak Gandhi said during the board's work session Friday, Feb. 21. “Even the community is waiting, and we need to plan and act accordingly as well.”
“This has been going on for two years, so this is not by any means a rushed decision. This has been drug out entirely too long,” said Fargo School Board President Robin Nelson.
After two years of discussion and controversy, changing school boundaries is still under consideration as a possible solution. But board members seem to be leaning toward building a new school, according to Nelson.
The proposed $58.5 million project would initially be a school with eighth and ninth grades and, if needed, could one day include seventh through ninth grades.
The board has unofficially decided to focus building the new school on land already owned by the school district, which is directly east of Davies High School.
Another option on the table is to build on land northwest of Davies, which would cost an additional $1,000 per square foot with $871,000 in pending special assessments.
“It wasn’t officially taken off the table," Nelson said of the second option, "but the board directed administration to proceed with planning on the currently owned land."
Nelson said a final decision will be made in late March or early April. Money to build a new school would come from the district's building fund, not its general operating fund, which is operating at a deficit this year, she said.
Although board members seem to be leaning toward building a new school to address rising student numbers, they have also considered other options, including year-round school, expanding class sizes and adding on to existing schools.
The district had 10,853 students in the 2014-2015 school year. This year there are 11,248 students, and that number is expected to rise to 11,781 by the 2024-2025 school year.
“Overcrowding is expected by 2022 and 2023, and so the board has been debating how best to handle the overcrowding,” Nelson said.
The board is mulling a proposal to make the new school environmentally friendly, with a goal of producing enough renewable energy to pay for itself. Construction and equipment costs would jump about 50% to make the building green, Nelson said.
“From what we’re being told, it is questionable for it to be able to pay for itself. It all comes down to where we want our dollars to go,” Nelson said. “And it is just a matter of how green, which is being considered.”