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West Fargo school enrollment on cusp of surpassing Fargo district

Alexis Peterson, 7, from left, Kuanyin Dut, 8, Kylie Stevermer, 8, and Aubrie Smith, 7, work on the floor Nov. 13, 2015, in a second-grade classroom at Legacy Elementary School in West Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

WEST FARGO—With more than 1,000 kindergartners already registered to enroll in West Fargo schools this fall, the rapidly growing district is on the verge of overtaking the number of students in the neighboring Fargo School District.

West Fargo had 11,257 registered students as of Wednesday, Aug. 15, while Fargo had 11,474, a spread of 217 students. Fargo begins classes Thursday, Aug. 23. West Fargo grades 1-12 begin classes Tuesday, Aug. 28. Those enrollment numbers are expected to fluctuate as classes begin.

Before registration this fall, Fargo schools projected 11,288 student would enroll this year, said Fargo Schools Spokeswoman AnnMarie Campbell. West Fargo was expecting 11,348.

West Fargo's school district encompasses the towns of Horace and Harwood and many homes and growing areas in the southwest city limits of Fargo, the 2016 estimated population of which was 120,762 compared to West Fargo's 34,858 that same year.

Last year, West Fargo counted 10,635 students on the first day of school, while Fargo counted 11,400.

The West Fargo district has seen record growth since the 1996-97 school year, enrolling 5,757 more students than it did 20 years ago, a growth spurt of more than 100 percent.

For the second year in a row, a record number of kindergartners registered to attend West Fargo schools, making it the metro area's largest kindergarten class. As of Wednesday, there were 1,017 kindergartners enrolled in the district, said spokeswoman Heather Leas. Last year, 963 kindergartners enrolled.

As of Wednesday, 869 kindergartners had registered in Fargo and 493 kindergartners had registered in Moorhead.

"That is as of today and it is changing hourly," said Deb Becker with Moorhead Public Schools.

Becker said Moorhead Public Schools is expecting more than 500 kindergarten students when school starts Sept. 4, which would put them in line with years past when about 510 to 520 kindergartners joined the district.

Last year, 916 kindergartners started in Fargo, and it is possible the district will come close to that number again, but the current numbers meet the district average, Campbell said.

"This is the time of year that our enrollments do fluctuate," she said.

West Fargo Business Manager Mark Lemer said additional kindergarten classrooms were added to Willow Park, Legacy, Freedom and Osgood elementary schools to accommodate the additional students.

This year marks the first year all West Fargo elementary schools will host kindergarten classes after the district began transitioning kindergarten out of Osgood Kindergarten Center and Lodoen Kindergarten Center. Kindergarten classes will begin Aug. 30.

The West Fargo district's newest elementary school, Willow Park, will open this fall and a 14th elementary school, Deer Creek, is under construction and will open in 2019.

Kindergarten classes will begin on Aug. 30.

Bismarck Public Schools remains the largest district in the state, with more than 12,000 students, followed by Fargo and West Fargo.

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 at CBS in Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

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