FARGO — Fargo Public Schools Superintendent Rupak Gandhi gave his State of the Schools Address on Thursday, Jan. 14, in a Zoom meeting, reporting that despite lower enrollment numbers this year, the future looks bright.

While the coronavirus pandemic has created challenges this year, some solutions may become advantages.

One option that students have this year because of the coronavirus pandemic is distance learning through the Virtual Academy, which currently has 734 elementary students, 442 middle school students and 322 high school students enrolled.

After the address, those in attendance broke away into focus groups to discuss whether that distance learning model should be used for snow days and whether school should begin or end two hours early once a month to allow time for struggling students.

No decision has been made at this point on the issues, but most district employees in one focus group seemed to favor distance learning for inclement weather days and starting school late once a month.

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“As much as, growing up, you look forward to those snow days, I think that over the past year we have seen that is more of an archaic practice,” said Keith Lehman, math teacher at Fargo North High School.

For Jefferson Elementary Principal Bradley Franklin, eliminating snow days wasn’t an easy decision to make. Some students still don’t have steady access to the internet, he said.

Douglas Andring, human resources director for the district, was concerned about issues parents might have with their children at home doing distance learning on snow days.

During his address, Gandhi noted that Fargo Public Schools enrollment dropped to 11,206 this year, mostly because of a decrease in elementary school enrollment.

Enrollment is expected to increase again next school year and further increase after the FM Diversion project is completed, he said.

At the state Legislature this year, the district, which operates on a budget of about $180 million, plans to address behavioral health issues and underfunded programs, focusing on special education.