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School district has some big decisions to make

Over the past several months, the West Fargo School Board's Planning and Development Committee has been holding brainstorming sessions to find solutions to ease overcrowding in our schools. Board members and administrators have been carefully analyzing enrollment projections and collecting data to help the district develop short-term and long-term plans to provide more space to meet the needs of the district's ever-growing student population.

The challenge to find a solution that will address growth at all levels is a complicated task. Cheney Middle School, which opened in 2004, is already bursting at the seams, and by looking at the size of some of the elementary classes moving up the ranks, it is obvious that space will continue to be an issue at the Middle School and High School level, as well as in the elementary schools for years to come.

Should we build another high school, and possibly a middle school, too? Or do we need another elementary school? Is there a way to reconfigure our existing school structure to help cut down on upcoming building expenditures without jeopardizing student welfare? Is renting property an option to help ease overcrowding temporarily? These are all questions facing the district, and the committee is discovering that every decision made at one level will affect decisions at the next level.

It has been interesting to listen to all of the ideas and proposals brought to each meeting and watch as the brainstorming process evolves. Some ideas that sound viable at one meeting are thrown out at the next meeting, while even a casual comment can become the spark that ignites a new proposal that sounds more affordable.

One thing that has been discussed during the meetings in quite detail is the concept that if we build a second high school, should the two schools have their own separate identities, or should there be one big school with two campuses? What are the pros and cons to each scenario?

The committee has been working very diligently, trying to look at every possible option available. Attendance has increased at each meeting as more teachers and building principals become involved.

Whatever decisions the board makes in the next couple of months are critical in shaping the future of West Fargo. On several occasions during recent meetings I have heard members of the school board affirm that it is their job to be good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars. At the same time, they are commissioned to help ensure that all students are given the best possible education options available. Every decision they make as a board should reflect those two important factors.