Fargo magnet school a possibilty in future
FARGO - Fargo School Board members debated the pluses and minuses of creating a magnet school during their summer retreat on Thursday, but worries about the cost versus competing district needs pushed the issue back to administrators for further ...
FARGO - Fargo School Board members debated the pluses and minuses of creating a magnet school during their summer retreat on Thursday, but worries about the cost versus competing district needs pushed the issue back to administrators for further study.
Magnet schools have a specialized curriculum meant to attract students from a much-broader area than the typical neighborhood school.
The idea of creating a magnet school has been floated by several Fargo school boards over the years, mainly to make better use of elementary classroom space on the district's north side and relieving enrollment pressure on the south side.
"This would be a wonderful opportunity for parents to decide to move from one part of the community to another" to give their children a unique opportunity, Assistant Superintendent Bob Grosz said.
But with nearly all of the district's elementary schools not hitting Annual Yearly Progress marks under No Child Left Behind, board member Rick Steen said the district should put basics such as reading and writing first.
"I know magnet schools are sexy," Steen said. But even with 75 percent of students fully proficient in reading and writing, "we have 25 percent who are not. ... That's huge!"
"The elephant in the room" is the inability of some students to communicate at grade level in English, Paul Meyers said.
"Reading is fundamental. ... If the kids can't read or don't understand the language," they can't learn, he said, urging stronger literacy efforts for immigrants.
About 13 to 14 percent of the district's students receive special education services, and 8 to 9 percent are English Language Learners, Grosz said.
He said there are several types of magnet concepts the district could try. Some focus on languages, such as Spanish immersion at Moorhead's Ellen Hopkins Elementary. Other schools teach in a dual language style - some classes are taught in a foreign language, and the rest in English.
Still other schools concentrate on one or more of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) disciplines; the arts (music, dance, drama, etc.); or a yearlong study theme.
Grosz said one school was paired with a college that trained teachers, giving the college students an opportunity to develop as teachers and putting more than one adult in each class.
Board President Jim Johnson wanted to know about added transportation costs and whether other districts used this to fix building issues. "Because that's what we're doing here. ... Instead of having a magnet, perhaps we have one too many schools," he said.
John Strand said the idea of a magnet is great, but unaffordable.
"I think it's an exercise in futility. It's a luxury. We don't have it in our budget," he said.
Superintendent Rick Buresh suggested that a magnet school could delay the need to build another elementary school on the south side.
The district is considering elementary boundary changes to ease enrollment pressure at southside schools, primarily Kennedy Elementary.
The board by consensus agreed to give the magnet school issue to administrators to study and report back their findings.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583