FARGO — While a task force works on possible school boundary changes for the Fargo School District, fresh numbers have surfaced from the school administration.
The task force is scheduled for its last meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 4, at Fargo South High School. Members have been considering school boundary changes as they look at building capacities for the district's 11,200 or more students.
Superintendent Rupak Gandhi made it clear after the numbers were presented at the Tuesday, May 28, school board meeting that both Discovery Middle School and Davies High School in far south Fargo are "expected to be at capacity" in the next few years.
Several of the proposed boundary changes would put some south Fargo students in different schools farther north in the future, and many parents in certain neighborhoods strongly oppose the changes as they want to keep their children as close as possible to their homes. About six parents spoke at an earlier May meeting, questioning the enrollment numbers and voicing their opposition to proposed boundary changes, as did a few board members.
The task force of about 35 residents, ranging from students to business people, will simply make recommendations, and the school board will make any final decision on if the boundaries will change.
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The changes to the boundaries, last adjusted in the 2015-2016 school year, could be a year or more away.
However, numbers presented by Associate Superintendent Robert Grosz show that after a "blip" this past year when enrollment district-wide dipped by about 50 students to 11,204, that number is expected to climb again this fall.
That's partly due to the two schools in question. Grosz reported "actual numbers" that show Discovery Middle School was at 1,034 students as the school year ended in May, while this fall 1,067 students are registered, which is an increase of 33 students. Capacity figures for the middle school range from 1,100 to 1,150 students.
His report also showed that enrollment in the past eight years has climbed by 134 students from 900 in August 2011 to that 1,034 number in May, despite some of the changes in the school's boundaries three years ago.
As for Davies High School, Grosz said enrollment as the school year ended was at 1,237 students. With 1,298 registered for the fall, it's an increase of 61 students. Capacity figures at Davies range from 1,350 to 1,382 students.
In the past eight years, Davies has climbed from 1,056 students in 2011 to that current number of 1,237, an increase of 181 students.
Gandhi said the task force has been using numbers from the nationwide RSP & Associates consulting firm of Overland Park, Kansas, but actual numbers presented this week show that capacity could actually be reached quicker than RSP's projections.
Board member Jennifer Benson has offered some critical comments about RSP and wondered if the new numbers could be presented to the task force.
Gandhi replied that those new figures are basically comparable and that he didn't want to change the work of the task force already.
In a three-page letter presented to the board Tuesday and obtained by The Forum, Robert Schwarz of RSP wrote that his firm has a longstanding relationship with the Fargo community and that they provide data-driven solutions.
He said they have a "track record of accuracy" in annual enrollment projections, but that it's only a social science not an "exact science."
Schwarz said the delay in the flood diversion project, which affects south Fargo, has changed the housing development outlook as well as future student projections.
"Changes in flood plain insurance, as well as development costs, have changed and as such impacted the accuracy of the projections," Schwarz wrote. However, he added that "accuracy at each of the grade levels and district level is stated correctly in the report RSP submitted to the district."
Gandhi said the new report presented by Grosz backs up the projections that "capacity issues" are at hand at Discovery and Davies.