Minot Public Schools Supt. Mark Vollmer said he's heartened by news that Mandan voters approved a $12.5 million bond issue on Tuesday to build a new elementary school.
Vollmer said he hopes this is a sign that voters in Minot might also consider the need for new schools as population of the Minot school district continues to grow at 3.5 percent each year.
The Minot Public School Board will likely ask voters next spring to approve a $32 million bond issue to pay for construction of a new elementary school in southeast Minot, an addition to Edison Elementary, and the purchase of land where a second high school can one day be built.
Other towns in the area are also looking at new school additions. Bismarck plans to build an additional elementary and another high school.
Vollmer said the board will keep an eye on what the Legislature does during the 2013 session. Vollmer is hopeful that the Legislature will approve grants for districts in areas that are heavily impacted by the ongoing oil boom in western North Dakota and low-interest loans that might help offset some of the costs of new school construction.
Vollmer also pays close attention to monthly reports from the Minot Planning Commission that show where new housing is going up.
Vollmer said the greatest need right now is for new classroom space in south Minot. New classroom additions are going up at Longfellow Elementary and Lewis and Clark Elementary, both north Minot schools, that will help address growth in that part of the city.
South Minot schools are busting at the seams. When the new Washington Elementary was completed six years ago in southeast Minot, the building had five empty classrooms. Today all of those classrooms are full and there are nine classrooms outside the school building, several portable units and one classroom rented by the district in an adjoining building. Edison Elementary is similarly full. Vollmer said there are no Minot schools south of Highway 2, which means most of the new students in south Minot end up attending either Washington or Edison.
The district purchased 10 acres of land in southeast Minot a couple of years ago that can be used for a new elementary school. The land is located at the corner of 37th Avenue and 13th Street Southeast, an area with a great deal of new housing. Vollmer said there is also a lot of new housing going up in the Green Acres addition and there have been a number of annexations into Minot from surrounding school districts, particularly Nedrose.
If voters approve the bond issue, that would only be Phase 2 of the plan. Phase 3 would call for the construction of a new 9-12 high school, the conversion of Magic City Campus into a 9-12 high school and the conversion of Central Campus into a third middle school.
Any new growth will require careful planning, said Vollmer.
Vollmer said he understands that city residents are already being asked by other government agencies to approve tax hikes and that it is difficult for many people to afford. However, he said the school district's needs are very real. There are currently 1,962 children enrolled in grades K-2 in the school district. Jim Hill and Erik Ramstad Middle Schools can each hold 750 students, while Memorial Middle School at Minot Air Force Base can hold about 130 students. Even if there is no future growth, there won't be room for all of those children in the existing middle schools in another six years, said Vollmer, who said all indicators suggest the district will continue to see strong growth. He hopes that property taxes paid for by new housing and new businesses will help offset some of the costs for existing residents.