Year round school: Fargo considers its options

FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - "Hang on for the ride – because the next six weeks will be really telling about what we do to help these kids get the best education that we can give them," says Robin Nelson, Fargo's School Board President.

During Thursday's summer work session, Fargo School Board members brainstormed for hours on how to relieve future overcrowding at Davies and Discovery - while still giving students access to high quality education and responding to community concerns.

"Work sessions allow a little bit more of a free flow of discussion that is not under the constraints of all of the parliamentary procedures, so – a very robust discussion and very interesting. I think we all learned a lot and shared some great ideas that we really hadn't thought of before," says Nelson.

At the end of the discussion, board members whittled their ideas down to three options - year round school at Davies and Discovery, boundary changes, and a ninth grade academy.

"We had a task force work on some boundary scenarios – those were brought to the board today. Some other ideas that were brought forth – one that was totally unexpected was let's explore year round school for these two overcrowded schools down on the south-side. And a third one was possibly creating ninth grade academy at South. And so these were things that really nobody expected to come up today, so they were delightful surprises, and really was a result of open mindedness and open discussion," Nelson says.

The Fargo community has been through boundary changes before, and there is a precedent in the district already when it comes to temporarily reassigning students to other buildings (like when ninth graders were sent to Agassiz) - but the idea of year round school is a lot newer.

During the session, Fargo School Board members were introduced to the idea of students being split into groups and attending school 45 days on, 15 days off. That schedule is staggered so when one group of students is attending school, another group is off - allowing the schools to meet all students' needs without going over capacity.

"There are by no means one is being preferred over the other. The board has committed to keeping an open mind throughout these discussions. We expect there will be a lot of community feedback because some of these are pretty bold," says Nelson. "I would discourage anybody from getting too excited right yet because some of these are fresh, new ideas and nothing is final."

District leaders will now research these ideas, create a pros and cons list for each one, and present those to the board on August 13th. The board is expected to vote on which idea they want to move forward with on August 27th, but members say whichever idea they choose - it won't go into effect until the 2022 school year.

"I know a lot of them wanted answers today and expected answers today and that's just not the direction the board decided to go. So I thank everybody for their patience," Nelson says.

We're also getting feedback from parents about the board's latest decision. One Fargo parent tells us having more than just one option to address overcrowding is encouraging.

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