FARGO — The Fargo School Board is juggling ideas on how to alleviate south side growth issues, discussing solutions such as changing school boundaries or building a new school to ease overcrowding at Davies High.
“What does the board want to invest in right now?” Superintendent Rupak Gandhi said during the board's work session Tuesday, Sept. 21, adding that the goal is to create consistent feeder patterns from grade schools to high schools.
Not only is enrollment growth exceeding predictions in south Fargo, plans to decommission the Agassiz building at 1305 9th Ave. S., which houses the newly renamed Dakota High School, are putting pressure on the school board to find space for students.
“Everything is a little bit interconnected here,” Gandhi said.
For now, district administrators will explore south side attendance changes with an eye on alleviating pressure on Bennett Elementary, which had higher-than-expected enrollment this year, and possibly moving forward with an addition to Hawthorne Elementary.
The board must also wrestle with decommissioning the Agassiz building, which the district plans to sell. Most of the programs offered in the building have found new homes except for Dakota High School and the adult learning program, Rupak said.
One of the ideas discussed was building a new high school in south Fargo, but change in boundaries could help ease overcrowding, which would postpone an additional school building until at least 2025.
Also, the district's purchase of the former R.D. Offutt Co. building, set to become the district's new headquarters, will provide extra parking that can be used by staff at nearby Hawthorne Elementary.
The stage is also being set to enhance communication with the district’s teachers union and address teacher concerns. Three commissions that will include school board members intend to take up the topics of recess, staff salaries and contract negotiations.
Board members Seth Holden and Brian Nelson will be the district’s representatives on the salary commission, which will begin regular meetings later this year.
The recess commission will study scheduling and best practices for how staff supervise students' recess periods. It will include Associate Superintendent Missy Eidsness and board member Nikkie Gullickson.
Recess periods became an issue during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 after teachers were asked to supervise recess due to staff shortages. The recess commission, which will include five other administrators, plans to study what practices would best benefit students and teachers.
The negotiations commission was created to reevaluate how the district will negotiate staff contracts by studying collaborative bargaining training with the teacher's union, known as the Fargo Education Association (FEA).
“It’s about hopefully creating a new paradigm that we will be going forward with,” board member Jim Johnson said. “I think it’s critical for all of us to try and be at that training.”
Past negotiations have been “adversarial,” Gandhi said, adding that the type of training the district and teachers union should be receiving was the important issue.
“This is to get the board and the FEA working together,” said board member David Paulson. “We come up with a training that meets both of our needs and we go forward from there.”