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8th grade at school meets resistance

A proposal to expand Sheyenne Ninth Grade Center to include eighth-graders as a solution to easing a coming middle school space crunch received mixed reception from some West Fargo School Board members Monday.

A proposal to expand Sheyenne Ninth Grade Center to include eighth-graders as a solution to easing a coming middle school space crunch received mixed reception from some West Fargo School Board members Monday.

The proposal calls for an addition to Sheyenne so it can handle 900 to 1,000 students by 2010-11, according to a memo from Superintendent Dana Diesel Wallace and members of the planning and development committee.

The idea is to provide a short-term solution to the district's middle school space needs without overbuilding, Diesel Wallace, and board members Tom Gentzkow and Karen Nitzkorski argued during the meeting at Harwood Elementary.

But board President Duane Hanson and member Angela Korsmo said they don't want to find themselves going to the voters for multiple bond issues by underestimating space needs. They said earlier plans called for building another middle school, then turning Sheyenne into a second high school when needed.

"I just want to make sure we're making a good solution for as long a term as we can," Hanson said.

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"We built Cheney (Middle School), we thought it was gonna' be good for a very long time. We're five years into it and we're stuffed."

Nitzkorski said the plan was an initial stab at the problem. "I think we just need a little more time" to educate each other about the problem and potential solutions, she said.

Cheney has an enrollment of about 1,400 students but would function better with 1,200 students, the memo said.

By 2010-11, the district could have 1,673 middle school students, or about 270 more than today, the memo said. Paired with the reduction sought at Cheney, that would leave a need for space to house 450 middle school students, the memo said.

In other business, the board:

- Held a first reading of a policy that restricts access of sex offenders to schools.

The policy follows state law by allowing parent and non-parent offenders access to schools to vote or for open meetings. Sex offenders who are parents would also be able to pick up their children and attend meetings related to their children, the policy states.

Any other access would be determined by the superintendent, the policy states.

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For joint use facilities such as the library and Veterans Memorial Arena, the district will post the access points to its property and sex offenders will be restricted to areas open to the public.

- Heard a request from Harwood Parent-Teacher Organization member Tanya Russiff to keep kindergarten at the school, rather than send Harwood's kindergartners to the Kindergarten Center.

Harwood will house a kindergarten section next year, Principal Jerry Barnum said.

Hanson said the School Board will look at how the arrangement works next year, but must also balance costs, educational opportunities, and fairness to the parents of children in other school areas to determine if the arrangement continues.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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