West Fargo Schools make temporary and long-term elementary school boundary changes
At its Monday, Feb. 14 meeting, the West Fargo School Board unanimously approved two sets of elementary school boundaries.
WEST FARGO — For the second time in as many months, the West Fargo School Board approved boundary changes that will help ease projected overcrowded classrooms, but the changes may cause some students to change schools five times before entering middle school.
At the board's Monday, Feb. 14, meeting, it unanimously approved two sets of elementary school boundaries. One set of elementary school boundaries is for when a new school is open in the Rocking Horse Farm neighborhood of Fargo. The second set of boundaries will be in place starting in the 2022-23 school year, continuing through the 2023-24 school year if the new school is not able to open on time in the fall of 2023.
Three parents, all who live near the Shadow Wood or Osgood neighborhoods, spoke to the board at the meeting. Their children have all had to transition to new schools multiple times due to changes in the district.
“Our school transitions would have been five at this point,” Emily Bakkum said. “Moving our kids around that many times is pretty detrimental.”
Bakkum, with fellow parents Jessica Jones and Amber Keller, asked the board to consider leaving the fourth and fifth graders at Independence Elementary School while the temporary boundary is in place, a move that would be similar to what is proposed for some fourth and fifth graders at Freedom Elementary School.
Jones said she supported the boundaries for the new school, but asked the board to reconsider the proposed temporary changes.
“We very much support the idea of it being a neighborhood school, but this is actually cutting our neighborhood into quarters,” Jones said.
Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Rachael Agre said the district worked on how to alleviate crowding at Freedom Elementary School and about 90 students were moved to Deer Creek Elementary School last May.
Then, in January, the board reconfigured the boundaries of the Sheyenne High School feeder system to avoid overcrowding at Liberty Middle School and Sheyenne High School, which had a major impact on some Aurora Elementary School students.
Monday, the board approved the boundaries for the new school. Families living east of the Sheyenne River, south of 32nd Avenue South, west of Veterans Boulevard, and north of 52nd Avenue South will attend the future Rocking Horse Farm neighborhood elementary school. Those students will attend the new school upon its opening and continue to Liberty Middle School and Sheyenne High School.
The board then unanimously approved the temporary changes that include:
- Kindergarten students who live south of Interstate 94, north of 32nd Avenue and between 45th and 51st Streets, will attend kindergarten at Independence Elementary School.
- All first, second and third grade students living north of 28th Avenue South, east of 51st Street and west of 45th Street from I-94 to 32nd Avenue South, will attend Freedom Elementary School. Those south of 28th Avenue will attend Independence Elementary School.
- All fourth and fifth grade students will be allowed to stay at Freedom Elementary School next year.
- All kindergarten through fifth grade Freedom Elementary students currently attending Deer Creek Elementary School will attend Independence Elementary School.
- Students living east of the Sheyenne River, west of Veterans Boulevard from 36th Avenue to 52nd Avenue, except for the area north of 40th Avenue South between the Sheyenne River and Fourth Street East, will move to Deer Creek Elementary School, until the new school opens.
Families affected by the boundary changes next year can apply to the district for a transfer, which would allow them to remain in the school they choose. Business Manager Levi Bachmeier said following the most recent boundary changes, all of the applications to stay or transition to a certain school that met the criteria set by the district were approved.
Superintendent Beth Slette said due to the shortage of bus drivers that have plagued school districts around the nation, the West Fargo School District is not able to bus more students to their school of choice.
Agre said students who have had to move schools numerous times already will be prioritized for transfer approval. Transfer requests can be made by contacting the district office.
Agre said lower elementary grade levels aim for class sizes of around 23 students per class, and the higher grades strive for class sizes of around 25 students.
If the district made no changes to elementary school attendance boundaries, by the 2023-24 school year Freedom Elementary would have a projected 624 students, Independence would have 639, Osgood would have 570 and Deer Creek would have 452, numbers well above the schools' capacities.