Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of articles concerning the West Fargo Public Schools upcoming bond referendum.
During the course of seven meetings and more than 24 hours of discussion this school year, a task force of district employees, community members and parents met to discuss the correlation between enrollment projections for the West Fargo School District and adequacy of the current facilities to meet those needs.
The facilities task force analyzed the spaces available in the district, giving consideration to several factors determined to be valuable in providing youth with a 21st Century Learning Environment. Part of that space analysis included making and agreeing upon assumptions about how building operations look, at both preferred and maximum capacity.
When functioning at preferred capacity, an elementary school building would have one flexibly assigned classroom to accommodate classes such as art and health, class size would be based on an average of 23 students, and all buildings would have space for special education, music, physical education, and a library/media space. Title I and English Language Learner (ELL) programming space needs also were allotted at two of the elementary schools, as currently deemed necessary.
When an elementary school building must function at maximum capacity, the flexibly assigned classroom is no longer available. Instruction for art and health is moved throughout the building using a cart for supplies; this practice reduces instructional time and is disruptive to the planning process. At maximum capacity, class size increases and storage and hallway spaces are utilized for instruction.
At the middle and high school levels, capacity is based upon the recommended square footage per student because of the wide variety of student needs and the flexibility of the space. At the middle school level, 160-165 square feet per student is used as the base, while 180-185 square feet per student is the base used at the high school level. When functioning at preferred capacity, these guidelines are met and buildings would have adequate space for special education, Title I, ELL, music, physical education, library/media space, and other specialized learning spaces.
After weighing the above assumptions against the enrollment projections, the Task Force provided a recommendation to the School Board. The Board asked that further information be collected from district employees and community members before the recommendation was adopted. This was done through a series of six meetings, at which the district received overwhelming support for the proposal that the Board has adopted, and that will go before the community for consideration on May 24, 2011.
That proposal includes:
Build one elementary for 550 students as soon as possible (estimated cost of $11 million); this school would be built on the recently acquired land west of Veterans Boulevard between 32nd Avenue and I-94.
Build a second elementary or additional elementary space when continued growth dictates the need (estimated cost $11 million). The ballot measure would ask for authority to exercise general obligation bonds for the second school or additional elementary space, but the bonds would not be sold, nor would taxes be levied to repay that amount, until construction actually occurs. The estimated cost that would be deferred is $11 million. The intention is to save the taxpayers that burden until it is necessary. Projections indicate it would be necessary before the end of five years, but we want to be cautious and only ask for the authority to build if it is evident that the newest school is nearly full, and that another could be needed and partially filled by the time it was completed. The site for the second elementary building and the timing of its construction will be predicated on location and pace of growth. Possibilities include district-owned land off of 52nd Avenue; land east of County 17 between 52nd Avenue and Horace; and/or an addition to Horace Elementary.
Build one new middle school separate from, and on the north end of, the Sheyenne property to accommodate 1200 middle school students; including site improvements like parking, outdoor physical education and athletic facilities (estimated cost $33.3 million).
Build a 900-student addition to Sheyenne 9th Grade Center to accommodate a total of 1500 high school students; including site improvements of parking, outdoor physical education and athletic facilities (estimated cost $26.8 million).
Renovate WFHS to accommodate a 9th grade center approach at that school (estimated cost $400,000).
WFHS and the expanded Sheyenne school would each become separate high schools serving students in grades 9-12.
Total estimated general obligation bond authority to be requested: $82.5 million.
If you would like an opportunity to gain further information, please consider attending one of the following scheduled community meetings at 7 p.m., or visit our website at www.WFvoice.org:
Thursday, May 5, Commission Chambers, 800 4th Ave East; Wednesday, May 11, Cheney Middle School, 825 17th Ave East; Thursday, May 12, Sheyenne 9th Grade Center, 800 40th Ave East; Monday, May 16, Aurora Elementary School, 3420 9th St West; Tuesday, May 17, Cheney Middle School; Wednesday, May 18, Commission Chambers.
Correction: There was an inadvertent error in the first article of this series that ran in the April 6 edition of the Pioneer: the proposed plan in 2010 included a new elementary school located south of 52nd Ave., an addition to the Sheyenne 9th Grade Center to create high school space for 800 students; and utilizing the existing space at Sheyenne for a middle school to accommodate 600 students. The cost of the plan in 2010 was $40 million dollars.