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The road to WFPS building recommendation

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news Fargo, 58102

Fargo North Dakota 101 5th Street North 58102

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles that will explain the process that was followed in determining what additional facilities were required to keep pace with the growth of the West Fargo School District.

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In 2009 the District leadership and the School Board proposed a plan that would provide new facilities for several years into the future. The plan included a new elementary school, a new middle school and a new high school. The total cost of this plan was $65 million dollars. When presented to the district for a vote, it did not receive the super-majority required. Given the continued lack of space, the plan was revised for another bond referendum in 2010. This plan included a new elementary school located south of 52nd Ave., an addition to the Sheyenne 9th grade center to create high school space for a 800 students; and utilizing the existing space at Sheyenne for a middle school to accommodate 600 students. The cost of the revised plan was $40 million dollars. When presented to the District for a vote in March of 2010, it was defeated also lacking the super majority.

A new Superintendent, Dr. David Flowers was hired and a Business Manager, Mark Lemer was rehired, to lead the District. Dr. Flowers had been the Superintendent of the Fargo Public Schools for several years and was familiar with the area and the rapid growth the West Fargo School District was experiencing.

Arriving in the District, Dr. Flowers formed a Long Range Facility Planning Task Force that would support the efforts of the District's Strategic Plan to provide a 21st Century Learning Environment for the students in the West Fargo School District. The Task Force was formed consisting of 37 members representing a cross section of the community including District personnel, principals, teachers, parents and community members. Dr. Flowers set this goal to the task force:

"Draft a long-range facilities plan that projects the future space and program needs of students and staff, and aligns them with the community's values and ability to support financially."

The Task Force met seven times from mid-October until Feb. 9, completing more than 24 hours of in-depth discussion. The process that the Task Force followed was extremely important with several different goals.

Evaluate and Assess

• The current condition, capacities and utilization of the current facility assets.

• Current fiscal capacities projected funding for both capital and operational needs.

Identify, Project or Predict

• Future enrollment

o Independent demographer (RSP and Associates, Overland, Kansas determined that the District will grow by almost 2000 students by 2015-16 to a total of slightly over 9000 students.

o Closely matches the District's projections

o Verified by the State Demographer, Dr. Richard Rathge

• Future demographic changes

o County birth rate and ethnic/cultural changes

o The District has been receiving an increasing share of new kindergarten eligible students from throughout the county. It is projected that the District might have 800 kindergarten students in the fall of 2011-12.

• Future community changes

o Sanford Medical Center, Veterans Boulevard, West Port Beach residential

Listen and Engage

• Staff, students and the community stakeholders

o Classroom and school size configuration

o Configuration preferences

Develop, share and refine through collaboration

• Engage the community and building leadership to facilitate a bond referendum

Observations and Issues

• Elementary

o Aurora is projected to have 870 students in its attendance area by 2015-16, part of the population (first graders have been moved to Osgood Kindergarten Center) to alleviate the overcrowding.

o From the current enrollment of 3496 students the elementary enrollment is projected to increase almost 28% to 4473 students by 2025-16.

• Middle School

o Cheney has exceeded its maximum capacity since 2008-09. The overcrowding was alleviated by the creation of the STEM program at Lodoen, 164 students in 2009-10 and 248 students in 2010-11. The middle school enrollment is projected to increase by 26% over the next five years to over 2000 students.

• High School

o 9-12 enrollment is projected to increase by 26% by 2015-16 to over 2516 students.

Watch for these future articles in this series: What is the plan? - April 13; Census Data and District Numbers - April 20; How will it be paid for? - April 27; Why do we need two High Schools? - May 4; It's Time - May 11.

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