More buildings, another bond may be on the horizon for West Fargo Schools
Long Range Facilities task force back at it to examine district needs
WEST FARGO — The West Fargo School Board is again relying on a large task force to consider its future building and potential bonding needs for the district.
The West Fargo Long Range Facilities Task Force, which is comprised of more than 80 parents, community members, teachers, district staff and administration, kicked off the first of what will be many meetings Wednesday, Sept. 21.
The task force is modeled after the 2015 task force that had 38 voting members and 38 additional participants. That group asked the community to support a $98.1-million bond referendum that voters overwhelmingly approved to build additional elementary schools as well as the West Fargo Sports Arena and Hulbert Aquatic Center.
In 2018, a nearly identical task force helped bring forward the $106.9-million bond referendum that was used to build the district's third high school and middle school, additional elementary schools and other building needs.
The large bond referendums were heavily supported by voters after the district was able to time the additional expenses with other bonds it was paying off, effectively causing a minimal impact to most tax bills for district residents.
Also like the previous task forces, the 2022 group will have to consider the district's break-neck pace of student enrollment growth.
In January of this year, the district heard from its consultants, RSP and Associates, that it can expect enrollment to continue to grow with an expected 14,559 students by the 2026-2027 school year.
Superintendent Beth Slette said while many schools are projected to have sufficient space over the next five years, it is clear some buildings will have significant space constraints, especially Horace Elementary, Legacy Elementary and Liberty Middle School. Sites near their maximum capacity include Brooks Harbor Elementary, Osgood Elementary, Heritage Middle, Sheyenne High and Horace High.
Along with classroom space, the task force will need to consider other needs such as the district’s long-term vision for its Pre-K services and growth plans arising from the completion of the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion. Slette said.
Last week, the task force focused on what types of needs it should address, such as elementary schools and boundaries, space constraints at middle and high schools, the high school academy, special education, activities needs, deferred maintenance and energy saving policies, sustainability projects, and additional safety and equity needs.
The task force will continue to meet over the next few weeks. The group is meeting both in-person and remotely. This coming week, the task force will tour existing facilities to get a feel for how the buildings are used.
Business Manager Levi Bachmeier said the district will try to provide the most current estimates for potential building projects as the task force moves through the steps of considering whether new buildings or additions are needed.