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Ease of use key for new school names

In the end, Florenz Bjornson may have just been too hard to say and spell.

Ease of use and the proximity to Veterans Boulevard instead were deciding factors Monday for the West Fargo school board's choice in naming its new schools.

After an unofficial table vote left things split 3-3, board president Ben Koppelman broke the tie in favor of naming West Fargo's middle school Liberty. Earlier, Freedom Elementary school received unanimous support from the board.

For proponents of Freedom and Liberty, the choice came down to form and function.

"They connect well with the Veterans corridor," board member David Olson said, in reference to the location of the new schools along Veterans Boulevard south of Interstate 94 in West Fargo.

For the general population, but elementary students in particular, "Florenz Bjornson may be too difficult to pronounce and spell," board member Kay Kiefer said.

Bjornson was an NDSU alum and longtime public servant who served two terms as mayor of West Fargo, and was elected to the North Dakota State House of Representatives in 1978. She also major force in getting the Sheyenne River diversion built, thus, "without her ... we wouldn't be the growing district we are today," Assistant Superintendent Louise Dardis said.

"She was a miniature woman with the strength of steel," Dardis added.

While board member Patti Stedman originally voted in favor of Bjornson, she was torn on the decision.

"When there is someone in our community who stand outs, naming a school after them is a small gesture," she said. "But I see both sides of the argument; it's a tough call."

Stedman, Karen Nitzkorski, and Angela Korsmo were in favor of Bjornson, while Kiefer, Olson and Judy Kvaale were for Liberty.

Before Koppelman cast his tie-breaking vote, Superintendent David Flowers added that there were other ways to honor an individual aside from naming a school after him or her, such as dedicating the school library or scholarship.

Besides unanimous support for Freedom Elementary school, which is slated to open this fall, the board agreed that naming the Middle School in reference to Sheyenne was out of the question.

When the Sheyenne Ninth Grade center is complete, people may have a tendency to refer to is as Sheyenne High School, regardless, they said.

No official decision on the high school name was mad Monday, however.

In other business, the board also approved conclusions of the Calendar Committee for the 2012-13 school year.

Stedman, who was on the committee as a board representative, said it was a difficult decision.

The group had to weigh the pros and cons, but also consider "what is best for our kids?" she said.

In the end, the Calendar Committee decided to start the school year before Labor Day, but end it before Memorial Day.

The 2012-13 year will have 175 student-contact days, beginning Aug. 23 and ending May 23.

Winter vacation spans Dec. 22-Jan. 1, with graduation May 26.

The next regularly-scheduled West Fargo School Board meeting will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 23 at Horace Elementary School.