To show its support for a regional Career Workforce Academy, the West Fargo School Board vowed to provide about $100,000 to the academy each year for at least the next 10 years.
The board unanimously voted to commit the funds for instructional costs at its Monday, Jan. 13, meeting, about a week before Cass County commissioners plan to discuss the use of the 1 mill the commission added to its 2020 budget for building costs.
The Career Workforce Academy, which will serve all county schools with educational training opportunities to fill jobs in the state, has raised about $15 million in private funds to build the school on the northwest corner of 45th Street South and 64th Avenue South, just southwest of Fargo, by 2022.
West Fargo Superintendent Beth Slette said Fargo and Moorhead Public Schools also plan to contribute about $100,000 each year for operations and instruction and the Northern Cass and Central Cass school districts would each each give about $50,000.
"The district wasn't willing or able to give bricks-and-mortar support to this," Slette said. "Since the Cass County Commission will be talking about this, this week, we're ready to talk about what that commitment would look like. "
Proponents of the academy hoped the Cass County Commission would agree to provide about 1 mill, or about $900,000, each year for the next 15 years to match the building costs, but commissioners have said they have many questions on how operations will be paid for. Some officials believe the state Legislature is considering providing more funding for workforce academies in coming years.
Business Manager Levi Bachmeier said tuition will be charged at the academy, which will help offset school costs. However, since the building plans are still underway, curriculum development is still to be determined.
"We can't talk programs until we have a building," he said. "It's kind of the chicken or the egg; we can't say what tuition would be until we know what classes they'll have."
When asked if the West Fargo School District could financially support the commitment safely, Bachmeier said the district's student growth will continue to generate the funds needed and the academy will also help support the district's space needs as students will have another building to choose to attend.
"Given we have two years to plan for it, we're essentially giving the new dollars coming in to the district," Bachmeier said.
In other school news:
The district will be holding its annual State of the Schools address at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, at Sheyenne High School. The public is invited.