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West Fargo explores school boundary changes

At Aurora Elementary School in West Fargo, Principal Carol Zent is forced to turn students away because the school is at capacity.

"It's been tough every year," she said, adding those students usually end up going to other elementary schools in the district. "One of the hardest things I have to do is turn people away at the door."

That's one reason why school officials are looking to change elementary school boundary lines, hoping to alleviate the space crunch at some schools.

Proposed changes would move about 150 elementary students to a different school next year if the school board approves the changes on Monday.

Kindergarten boundaries, though, won't change.

"Certainly it will help," Zent said, "(but) I'm going to still be looking at capacity."

The packed southside 550-student elementary already sends some of its students to Berger, Horace and Westside elementary schools as well as Osgood Kindergarten Center.

Changing the boundaries would move some Aurora students to Horace and Westside elementary schools.

If the school board approves the changes, parents of students who will be affected would receive letters, officials said.

"When lines change, change is hard for everyone," Zent said, "but I'm hoping people will understand."

Administrators determined the proposed changes by mapping out every elementary student in the district by grade.

With the changes, six of the district's nine elementary schools' classrooms - including Osgood Kindergarten Center, which is also housing first-graders - would be full next fall.

That's 163 of the district's 169 elementary school classrooms.

"This doesn't give much wiggle room for some schools ... kind of scary," board member Patti Stedman said. "It concerns me we don't have much relief for Aurora."

Zent said, based on preliminarily numbers, she'll still have to turn away kids next fall even with this short-term fix.

That's why school board members are also exploring school additions for long-term relief in light of two failed bond referendums this year.

They discussed on Monday the possibility of using federal qualified school construction bonds to fund adding classrooms onto some schools. The interest-free loans would be paid through existing levies.

"It gives us another source of dollars," board Vice President Karen Nitzkorski said, and it "won't really have any taxpayer implications."