$147 million bond referendum for West Fargo School District voted down

Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 7:15 PM CDT
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WEST FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Voters in the West Fargo School District voted down a $147 million bond referendum. For comparison, in 2019 Moorhead’s bond referendum for the new high school and the new Moorhead Career Academy passed for $110 million.

But school leaders are undeterred in their mission to serve students, staff, and parents.

“Well of course we were hoping it would pass,” admits Superintendent Beth Slette.

Slette says she had high hopes for the school referendum, which included money for the construction of a new elementary school, expansions at Heritage Middle School and Horace High School, improvements and expansions of South Elementary, district-wide safety and security upgrades and more.

Slette explains, “We have new learners coming every year, so it does set you back when you hear that but at the same time we are here for our families and our community we are in service and so it’s our job now to figure out what we do next.”

The district has grown from less than 10,000 students in the 2016-2017 school year to more than 13,000 projected students this year.

However, the plan drew criticism from some who say the schools should have been built bigger to begin with.

“The children are coming, and I think everybody sees that and we take all of the children, they all deserve to be educated so we are just looking what is the best way to provide equitable learning spaces in the future,” says Slette.

Of the roughly 56,000 eligible voters in the district, there were only about 4,000 voters on this year’s referendum.

Slette says she wants to focus on turning out more voters for the next bond election.

She says, “I think involving students in our conversations would be another step and again using a multi opportunities whether it be radio whether it be social media but to get that input from the community before we put the bond referendum package together.”

She adds, “We really feel that we need to get some additional voices in, so reconvening that task force under the direction of our school board and then to come up with a strategic plan that involves more stakeholders earlier in the conversation.”

Officials say the school board will canvass the results at their next meeting on October 9 and create a follow up plan from there.