Washington Elementary is bursting at the seams, with nine classrooms located outside the main school building.
Principal Kendo Carlson, showing off the school grounds Wednesday morning, said there are eight portable classrooms and one classroom located in a medical building next to the school. Older elementary children have to walk 100 yards to a portable classroom for music class and, since there are no restrooms in the portables, the kids have to walk back to the main building for a bathroom break as well. When the one-time Medical Arts Clinic building opened as a school in 2007, it had five empty classrooms.
The crowding at Washington is an example of the ongoing growth in the Minot Public Schools that could lead to voters being asked to approve a bond issue next spring for new school construction.
Andrea Johnson/MDN • Fifth-graders at Washington Elementary are attending classes in one of the eight portable classrooms on site. A ninth classroom outside the building is located in a building adjacent to the school. Washington Elementary principal Kendo Carlson said his child will be in kindergarten at the school next year but would probably eventually attend classes in a new elementary in southeast Minot if voters were to approve a bond issue in the spring. Some of the children from Washington Elementary would end up attending that school, easing the crowding at Washington.
Supt. Mark Vollmer said as of this week there are 753 children enrolled in kindergarten in the district's public schools. There are 625 first-graders.
"Last year we graduated 420," said Vollmer, who said the large class sizes are likely a sign of the times.
The district has a double portable classroom located in front of Perkett Elementary now, a school where portables have never been needed in the past. Longfellow Elementary, located in a neighborhood severely affected by the 2011 flood, also required an additional portable classroom to be located there this school year.
Other school districts in western North Dakota are also seeking bond issues to help pay for new school construction.
The Williston School District, also faced with ongoing population growth, will hold a school bond issue election Dec. 11. Voters will be asked to approve a maximum bond issue of $55 million to pay for construction of a new middle school and an elementary as necessary to meet enrollment needs; to renovate the current Williston middle and high school complex; to remodel, renovate, improve, and equip other school facilities; to purchase land and acquire property for school purposes, to make site improvements to school property, and to construct, remodel, improve and equip co-curricular and athletic facilities.
Voters in Garrison, which also is experiencing ongoing growth, defeated a $9 million school bond issue on Tuesday.
The district has several ongoing school construction projects that are intended to address both flood recovery and the increased growth in the district. A new middle school is under construction in northwest Minot to replace the flooded Erik Ramstad Middle School. The building will be three levels and will have 127,000 square feet. It will have space for up to 750 students, more than the old building.
School additions are also going up at Longfellow and Lewis and Clark Elementaries, Longfellow is undergoing renovation after being flooded during last year's Souris River Flood, and a new gymnasium is also being added at Jim Hill Middle School.
The new Ramstad and the new school additions are slated to be ready in time for the start of the 2013-2014 school year in the fall.
Other classroom additions were added in past years at Sunnyside Elementary and at Jim Hilll.
Despite the new classroom space, it won't be enough to address all of the expected growth. The school board approved hiring an architect to draw up plans for new school construction to be presented at public meetings that will start to be held in January. Vollmer said that without any additional funding assistance from the state, it will cost $32 million to build a new elementary school on land the district already owns in southeast Minot; build an addition to Edison Elementary to address continued growth in southwest Minot; and to purchase additional land where a second high school could eventually be built.
Vollmer said Minot might be eligible for low-interest loans or grants from the state to help fast-growing school districts in oil country. The state Legislature might consider such grants in the upcoming session, but Vollmer added that many organizations will be asking the Legislature for funding come January, and Minot will be competing against other entities.
The bond issue would fund Phase 2 of the district's long-term plan. There is also a Phase 3, which would call for construction of a new high school, giving Minot two 9-12 high schools, and turning Central Campus into a third Minot middle school.