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School enrollment up 561; kindergarten class largest in city’s history

South Elementary first-grader Zachary Johnson looks through his desk on his first day of school in Jorgia Voegele’s class on Monday. Photo by David Samson

With more than 500 more students enrolled in the district and major construction projects clogging up nearby roads, the first day of West Fargo schools and the opening of Independence Elementary School went smoothly, according to officials.

Across the district, 9,105 students started school this week, including 475 at Independence Elementary School, which opened its doors to students for the first time on Monday. Enrollment is up 6.6 percent, or 561 new students.

The district expected to see about 470 new students this year.

District spokeswoman Heather Konschak said the numbers were fairly close to what was expected in the district, which has grown by 90 percent in the past 10 years.

Since 1994, the student population has grown by 4,239 students, she said.

“We’ve gotten very good at projecting those numbers,” she said on Monday.

The majority of new students, 328, were in grades pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. An additional 233 students were enrolled in grades six through 12.

This year’s kindergarten class, composed of 884 students, will be the largest in West Fargo’s history, Konschak said.

At the high school level, 607 students began their freshman year at Sheyenne High School, where 249 sophomores and 193 juniors also attend. A total of 1,049 students are enrolled at Sheyenne, the district’s newest high school, in grades nine through 12.

At West Fargo High School, 531 seniors are attending class with 366 juniors and 375 sophomores for a total attendance of 1,272.

In Horace, 227 students are enrolled, down slightly from the 232 students who started the school year there in 2013.

In Harwood, 132 students were counted on Monday. Last year, 130 students were enrolled on the first day of school in Harwood.

The largest elementary school enrollment as of Monday in the district is Aurora, with an enrollment on of 548, up from 486 last year.

While the growth was expected, and the district has tried to keep up by building needed schools, a 10th elementary, Legacy Elementary School, is currently under construction. Delays due to the local construction were also expected.

Veterans Boulevard remains open where drivers can approach the high school and Liberty Middle School from north and south, and 40th Avenue was opened by Monday to Seventh Street east, allowing traffic to enter Sheyenne High School’s south parking lot.

But 40th Avenue remains closed from Sheyenne Street to Seventh Street East and is not scheduled to reopen until October. The city and district has placed flaggers on 40th Avenue at 7 a.m. to help traffic move through Veterans Boulevard and 54th Street South. There will be a four-way stop at both intersections until permanent electronic traffic signals can be installed.

Chris Brungardt, West Fargo public works director, said Monday afternoon that he had heard of no complaints or issues with the heavy traffic around the schools on Monday.

“The 40th Avenue project is on time and on budget, so we’re pleased with its overall progress. But there will be delays until the project is finished,” Brungardt said.

Konschak said the district did not hear of any mishaps due to construction.

“Of course, we always allow for a few tardies on the first day of school,” she said.

Wendy Reuer

Wendy reports for The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer, where she is also assistant editor. A University of Minnesota Morris graduate from North Dakota, Wendy started her career in television news and entertainment in Minnesota and and at CBS Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

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