On Monday night, the West Fargo School Board unanimously decided to direct the administration to begin construction of another new elementary school on land purchased just east of the Sheyenne 9th Grade Center as soon as possible, with the targeted date of completion set for August 2014.
This decision means that plans to relocate students to cope with increasing enrollment should be "as minimally disruptive as possible," during the next few years, according to superintendent David Flowers and business manager Mark Lemer. It also assumes that the district will continue their efforts to obtain additional funding from the state to assist the district financially.
With Freedom Elementary School opening this year, the board's plan was to begin talks of another school, which would cost the district around $11 million to build, once Freedom reached 85 percent of its 550-student capacity, which they assumed would take a year or two.
However, Freedom opened past capacity with 565 students on its first day.
The biggest issue facing this decision was whether the district could afford the operational costs of another school in the event that additional funding from the state was not made available to them. While there seems to be support for a revised funding system for growing districts in the state department, there is no guarantee that anything will come from it.
"For us, the biggest thing is not knowing what the outcome is going to look like," Lemer said.
Board member Dave Olson contended that, despite financial limitations, a promise was made to the district voters that another elementary school would be built when it was necessary, which it now is.
"We will effectively slow down our growth if we don't come forward with an elementary school when it was promised (to the voters)," board member Dave Olson said.
In the end, the board agreed that that was a risk they would have to take in order to ensure the highest standard of education for West Fargo students.
"If I am going to have to gamble, I don't want to gamble with our kids," board member Jeff Shirley said. "I don't see how we really can wait."
Even with this decision, the district will still have issues accommodating the growing group of elementary students until the new school is complete. While the board will explore this issue, the most likely areas to relocate students include extra elementary space, such as the few extra classrooms in the Osgood Kindergarten Center, and the space in the Lodoen Center that will be vacated by the STEM program in favor of the newly constructed Liberty Middle School.
Also during the meeting, the board agreed to adopt a new logo for the district. The logo is a green torch which makes a "W" shape and has an orange flame coming from it. The green represents the current West Fargo High School, while orange is one of the colors of the soon-to-be Sheyenne High School. This logo should be put to use by the district very soon.