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Moorhead changes elementary school boundaries

School board member Matt Valan said he understood the frustration some families feel because he and his family experienced similar school boundary changes when he was a boy attending Moorhead schools.

Robert Asp Elementary
Robert Asp Elementary
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MOORHEAD — The Moorhead School Board on Monday, April 11, approved new attendance area boundaries for schools in the district.

The change was made to ease capacity issues the district is experiencing at elementary schools on the south and east sides of the city.

"The district continues to experience steady growth. We are nearing, or at capacity, at Dorothy Dodds and S.G. Reinertsen Elementary schools. Our newly built career academy and operations center allowed us to shift some programming, freeing up space at the elementary level, but requiring some realignment to increase our elementary school capacity,” Superintendent Brandon Lunak said.

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A survey was conducted to collect input from district families and a task force made up of elementary parent representatives and school district administrators developed recommendations that were presented to the board in March.

Those recommendations were tweaked at the request of board members to better balance student needs, numbers and sections, and the board approved a revised plan Monday.

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The approved plan takes into consideration target class size and growth potential at each school, socio-economic factors across the elementary schools, transportation impacts, fiscal responsibility and geographic distance of neighborhoods to the elementary school, school officials said.

About 277 current students will be impacted by the change that will begin in the 2022-23 school year.

Families are in the process of being notified by the district and an exception process has been established for families who would like their student or students to stay at their current school.

Lunak said the district recognizes that the change may be a challenge for some families, but he stressed it was necessary to accommodate growth.

"Our desire is to re-balance the elementary schools to continue to provide each student with the positive physical, emotional and educational environment they deserve to further grow and thrive," Lunak said.

Before the board took action Monday night, Joni Jensen, a peer teacher at Robert Asp Elementary, urged board members to think about class sizes and the importance of keeping class sizes small to help students thrive.

She said adding even two to five students to a classroom can have serious consequences for things like educational equality, particularly in schools that have a large percentage of students who receive free or reduced meals, as it is likely students face additional challenges to start with.

Jensen said after the meeting that her comments weren't directly connected to the boundary change decision, but she said whenever the district takes a major step she feels it's important to remind district leaders about the big picture and needs that teachers feel are important.

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Jensen and other teachers said they felt heard by the board Monday night.

In making the boundary change decision, board member Matt Valan said he understood the frustration some families feel because he and his family experienced similar school boundary changes when he was a boy attending Moorhead schools.

"We have been here before," said Valan, who asked for patience and encouraged people "to keep letting us know where the problems are."

The district had considered moving its Spanish Immersion Program, but the boundary plan approved Monday keeps the program at Ellen Hopkins Elementary and the attendance area for Ellen Hopkins is unchanged.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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