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WF growth continues to challenge district

By Dr. David Flowers, Superintendent, West Fargo Public Schools

What an exciting time to live in West Fargo, and be serving West Fargo Public Schools! Five years ago, there were fewer than 7000 students. Today, our enrollment comes in just over 8500. Most of our growth is at the elementary level; last year, we had just over 500 seniors, compared with our 842 kindergarteners this year. Thanks to the passing of the May 2011 bond referendum and the School Board’s excellent management of the building fund and other revenue sources, we have been able to just barely keep up with this amazing growth.

Flowers The following is a list of student spaces that have come online since May 2011, or will in the near future:

* Freedom Elementary - Opened full August 2012 (Capacity of 540)

* Osgood Kindergarten Center - Two additions (Increased capacity to 440)

* Independence Elementary – Currently under construction @ 3700 54th Street South in Fargo, due for completion Fall 2014 (Capacity of 540)

* New Elementary – Due to start construction in Spring 2014, completion for Fall 2015 in The Wilds subdivision (Capacity of 540)

* Liberty Middle School - Opened August 2013 for south-side 6-8 graders (Capacity of 1200)

-Also temporarily houses Freedom and Aurora 5th graders while Independence Elementary is under construction.

* Sheyenne 9th Grade Center / West Fargo Sheyenne High School

-Phase I (Academic Wing Addition) – Opened August 2013 for all 9th graders and south-side 10th graders. (Increased Capacity to 1500)

-Phase II (Fine Arts/Activities Wing Addition) – Currently under construction, due for completion Fall 2014

*West Fargo High School (9th Grade Renovation) – Due to be completed prior to the 2015-16 school year to accommodate north-side freshmen.

-2015-16 is when both WFHS and SHS will have 9-12 graders; West Fargo High serving those residing north of I-94 and Sheyenne High serving those south.

Effective management of the taxpayers’ dollars to build needed classroom space is only part of the challenge. The other challenge is managing the increased operational costs—additional staff, materials, technology, equipment, heating/cooling, bus routes, etc. Unfortunately the state’s new funding formula only pays for increases in spring-to-fall enrollment if the growth exceeds 4 percent, and then payment is only for those students beyond 2 percent growth. Furthermore, the rate of payment for the “growth” students is only at the rate of $3900 per student, rather than $8810 per student for those that were in the district the previous year. Though it is not a logical model, we are thankful that the legislature provided at least some recognition of the demands that growth places on a district like ours. Our neighboring district, Fargo, grew over 200 students, but did not reach the 4 percent threshold, therefore will receive no funding for their new students.