A new middle school and a special education only facility: Fargo Schools plans its future

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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Boundary changes may be off the table for Fargo Public Schools. Tuesday night, the Fargo School Board approved the district’s long range facility plan - which talks about building a new middle school to address overcrowding concerns instead of changing boundary lines.

According to the plan the middle school would be built south of 76th Avenue, and would first be used to house 8th and 9th grade students from Discovery and Davies. The facility should open in the fall of 2023.

The idea may be welcomed by some parents who rallied against the idea of boundary changes.

Also in the approved plan was the district's path forward when dealing with special needs students.
The long range facilities plan says the district is looking into creating a school that provides ‘Setting D’ services. The special education only school would be attached to Lewis and Clark Elementary School. Fargo schools hopes to start the design phase for the facility this fall, so it can open by spring of 2022. The school district says it has to create the facility to meet federal standards.

Superintendent Rupak Gandhi says the plan isn't set in concrete and the ideas and timelines could change, but special education advocates are expressing their concerns with the document. Advocates have long said a separate facility would segregate students based on their disabilities, and the district's previous attempt at a similar type of setting at Agassiz was a failure.

In a statement, the parent advocate group 'North Dakota for Integration and Inclusion' says:

“The approval of the long-range facility plan, to include the Setting D Services, was approved on Tuesday by the Fargo Public School Board. While parents and advocates support the ‘school within a school’ philosophy, the verbiage within the plan defining these services and the lack of information regarding programming leaves some questions in the minds of parents and advocates.

Not only has there been no mention of planning around the staffing and programming for the Setting D Services, but there is also misinformation regarding the classification of Setting D within the plan. The long-term facility plan states that this setting would be for students that received services outside their classroom 50% of the school day or more, although under Federal Law, IDEA, and Section I of the ND IEP form, that is Level B services. Setting D Services are for children who are receiving services that cause them to be out of the general education classroom 100% of their day, for various reasons. This discrepancy is alarming to parents and advocates and leaves us concerned and nervous. Words are important and these details matter when it comes to planning and implementation.

Parents and advocates support the philosophy for ‘a school within a school’, and as always, the families and advocates following this effort plan to be involved in the planning and implementation of these services. Family/advocate participation will be necessary and valuable to ensure services are appropriate and comprehensive. We are hopeful that through collaboration and cooperation between community partners, parents, advocates, and Fargo Public Schools we can achieve the mission: to achieve excellence by educating and empowering ALL students to succeed.”