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Elementary boundary changes are a necessary price of progress

I have often joked that the last things a superintendent wants to do are change elementary

boundaries or close an elementary school. The reason is that these can be controversial and

divisive actions that literally become the last things the superintendent does because he or she

is fired because of it. Nevertheless, changing elementary boundaries is absolutely necessary in

a school district that is growing as quickly as ours, and that is opening a new elementary school

nearly every year. Since I came to the district in 2010, the West Fargo Public Schools Board

has opened, has initiated, or has authorized construction of six new elementary schools

(Freedom, Independence, Legacy, Brooks Harbor, Willow Park and a school in the Deer Creek

neighborhood slated to begin construction in spring of 2018). In addition, the district has

remodeled or has built on to increase capacity of three elementary schools.

The fundamental reason for all of the construction has been to create space to house the

increasing enrollment. Each year, the district has grown 400-500 students, and the majority of

the growth has occurred at the elementary level. The second, most exciting reason for the

additional schools and additions is to be able to house kindergarten children in their

neighborhood schools rather than being bused from their neighborhood schools to two

kindergarten centers. With the opening of Willow Park Elementary on the north side, and the

transformation of the Osgood Kindergarten Center into a K-5 neighborhood school, all

kindergarten children will be able to attend their neighborhood school in the fall of 2018.

Obviously the new schools and the need to make room for kindergarten in each school

necessitate a change in the boundaries. In looking at the various scenarios for serving each

neighborhood while utilizing the capacity of each elementary school, a community committee

weighed and debated a number of values relative to each suggested scenario. Examples of

some of the values were stability (trying to create boundaries that will serve for as long as

possible; proximity (trying to allow families to be served by the closest school to their home;

continuity (insuring a feeder system from elementary to middle school to high school that does

not divide neighborhoods at transition times); and equity (balancing socio-economic makeup of

the schools).

We hope we are going about the decision of where to set boundaries in a thoughtful and

transparent way, and we will strive to communicate decisions effectively. A task force made up

of parent representatives of each elementary school and representative elementary principals

has met four times this fall, and will take recommendations for elementary boundaries to the

School Board on Nov. 13. Following the Board's decision on the boundaries, the district

will communicate the proposed new boundaries in a variety of ways. We urge parents to watch

for the various means to learn more and to voice questions or concerns. Each elementary

parent will receive a letter about boundary changes, either via mail or email, depending upon

the method for which they have expressed preference. The letter will inform parents of means

to learn more. Among the ways of sharing information and inviting responses will be four face-

to-face meetings in elementary schools (two on the south side and two on the north side).

Dates and times of these meetings will also be advertised in the West Fargo Pioneer. There will

be a voiced PowerPoint presentation available on the district website under the elementary

boundaries section, including maps of the new boundaries. There will be a living, growing

Question and Answer page with the most common questions or concerns, and responses,

available on the website. There will be information and links included on the district's social

media sites.

Clearly we know that changing elementary boundaries will create anxiety and/or inconvenience

for families. Nevertheless, it is an unavoidable process in a dynamic and growing district. We

anticipate and appreciate our community's support and understanding of these needs as we

continue to address the district's growth.

Community Meetings to Discuss Elementary Boundaries

7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 at Eastwood Elementary School

6:30 p.m. Nov. 21 at Osgood Elementary School

7 p.m. Nov. 29 at Westside Elementary School

6 p.m Dec. 5 at Aurora Elementary School