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Fargo, West Fargo seeing more students

Fargo Public Schools saw its first-day enrollment figures rise Monday for the time in six years. Meanwhile, West Fargo's public schools topped 5,400 students this fall, a year sooner than expected. Fargo stabilizing After watching Fargo student n...

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Fargo Public Schools saw its first-day enrollment figures rise Monday for the time in six years.

Meanwhile, West Fargo's public schools topped 5,400 students this fall, a year sooner than expected.

Fargo stabilizing

After watching Fargo student numbers drop from a high of 11,785 in 1998, this fall's enrollment of 11,198 -- 47 more than last year -- may signify the start of an expected stable period, administrators said.

"Growth has its set of challenges, as does decline," said Lowell Wolff, the district's planning and community relations administrator. "To be in a stable environment is very good."

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While the school district does not anticipate major growth spurts, Monday's numbers show promise for future enrollment.

This year's kindergarten class of 904 is the largest in recent history. That's 102 more students than were in last year's class.

Also, both northside and southside elementary schools, as a group, saw growth. The northside elementary schools -- often perceived as being in neighborhoods that aren't growing or attracting young families -- had a larger enrollment increase (1.3 percent) than the southside elementary schools (0.9 percent).

Among other enrollment figures:

- Sixty more students in this year's freshman class also will help stabilize future high school enrollment, Wolff said. In 2002-03, the high schools saw a 2 percent decrease in students.

- Ben Franklin Junior High in north Fargo saw a bump of 61 students, or 6.9 percent, while Agassiz Middle School in south Fargo lost 57 students, or 5.4 percent. The difference can be traced to Clara Barton and Hawthorne elementary school students who, for the first year, went north instead of south, Wolff said.

West Fargo growing

When registration numbers came back a couple of weeks ago, the West Fargo School District expected it would top 5,400 students this fall.

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Monday's enrollment was 5,406 -- up 122 students from last year, or 2.3 percent.

That's slightly faster growth than administrators anticipated. Last December they predicted 5,367 students would open the school year and that 5,454 students would start the 2004-05 school year, said Superintendent Chuck Cheney.

"We're already halfway there," he said.

The faster growth won't stress buildings anytime soon, Cheney said. The new middle school will open next fall, giving elementary schools an extra cushion when sixth-graders move into the new building.

"But right now it's looking like we are going to need additional space sooner than we thought," Cheney said.

Fargo private schools

The Fargo Catholic School Network saw a slight rise in enrollment. The four schools -- Shanley High School, Sullivan Middle School, and Holy Spirit and Nativity elementary schools -- began the year with 1,041 students, said Jo Astrup, business manager. That's 19 more students than last year.

Oak Grove Lutheran Schools held steady with last year's enrollments at 315 students, said Linda Olson, director of admissions.

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"No huge leaps, but we had a huge graduating class last year," she said. "We're just looking forward to a new year."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erin Hemme Froslie at (701) 241-5534

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