West Fargo bond vote possible in May
A bond vote for four new schools in West Fargo could come as early as May, provided the school board can agree on the price tag and decide whether to open a second high school right away, or split ninth- through 12th-grade Packers between two bui...
A bond vote for four new schools in West Fargo could come as early as May, provided the school board can agree on the price tag and decide whether to open a second high school right away, or split ninth- through 12th-grade Packers between two buildings for a few years.
The board debated the issues for several hours at a retreat Wednesday, but did not have a consensus.
Most board members agreed that a $78.5 million plan to build two elementary schools, a new middle school and turn Sheyenne Ninth Grade Center into another high school would handle the district's projected enrollment growth through 2015.
However, while most board members liked a $33.3 million middle school that could hold 1,200 students, others said a 900-student school at $28 million might work, too.
"A $5 million impact to the public may be a big deal, it may not," Ben Koppelman said.
Similarly, most on the board appeared to back creating two 9-12 high schools.
But Dave Olson said some voters would rather have one high school split between two buildings, one with grades nine and 10, and the other with grades 11 and 12, rather than divide Packerland.
"It's about getting a bond to pass," Olson said. "That leap is hard for them."
Board President Karen Nitzkorski countered that other residents want two high schools soon.
"I'm hearing from a lot of young parents south of the interstate, who are saying you need to build another high school or we're going to move our kids (out of West Fargo School District)," she said.
Superintendent David Flowers said the need to build at least one elementary school now is great.
To get a school built by the fall 2012, he said the board should seek a bond vote as soon as May.
"The clock is running in terms of planning," he said.
He said he would meet with focus groups in the next few weeks to present the district's demographic information and the conclusions of the Long Range Facility Task Force. He said he hopes feedback from those groups will help the board come to a consensus.
Nitzkorski said a May vote is a tight timeline, but possible.
The last two bond issues were voted down.
According to RSP and Associates, a demographic firm hired to give the school district an independent gauge of its future enrollment, by 2015 West Fargo will need 687 more spaces for elementary students, 750 spaces for middle school students and 666 at the high school level.
Those projections already take into account eight classrooms that will be built at Osgood Kindergarten Center to accommodate 176 students.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583