Dickinson schools working on accommodations for enrollment increasesThe economic activity in northwest and southwest North Dakota is generating uncertain situations and interesting discussions for the school board and administration.
By: By Doug Sullivan, The Dickinson Press
The economic activity in northwest and southwest North Dakota is generating uncertain situations and interesting discussions for the school board and administration.
While we know the enrollment in the school district has increased by approximately 100 students in the last year, we have not experienced the dramatic enrollment being experienced in the northwest corner of the state.
However, the expectation of increased school enrollment due to predicted economic activity and the current construction in Dickinson has been a topic of discussion for an extended period of time. It continued to be discussed at the regular meeting of the Dickinson School Board in November.
Following the discussion, the Dickinson School Board has authorized the administration to proceed with construction of a facility north of the interstate. A primary reason for authorizing the request to proceed is the current and anticipated enrollment in the kindergarten to fifth-grade classrooms. This facility would be located on property currently owned by the school district so it is not necessary to purchase any land for the project. The facility would be approximately 55,000 square feet and provide 18 new classrooms for grades kindergarten to fifth grade. The total estimated cost of the project is $11.5 million.
Funding for the facility would be provided through three different mechanisms. The district will utilize $5 million of existing money currently in the district Interim Fund; another $5 million will be funded by substituting 6 mills from the Building Fund to pay for 15-year construction bonds; and $1.5 million will be paid through a 15-year levy for heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
The HVAC expense will require approximately two additional mills per year for the 15-year time period and those two mills represent the tax increase necessary to fund the new facility. Dickinson Public Schools estimates the increase in taxes on a $200,000 home to be approximately $18 per year.
It is important to note that the facility needs in the school district has been an ongoing discussion for approximately the last 3.5 years.
After the 11 classrooms were added to Jefferson and Lincoln elementary schools last year, the administration and school board continued to discuss and review the enrollment and facilities of the district.
At this time, we are estimating that, even without an increase in inward migration, the elementary schools will need additional classrooms within two years. The tentative schedule will be to proceed with receipt and award of bids for the construction project by March. If the district is able to adhere to this schedule, construction would begin next spring with the facility scheduled for completion by the start of the 2013 school year.
It is fortunate the district has continued this discussion as we attempt to prepare for the uncertainty of the economic development occurring in Dickinson and western North Dakota.
This decision has been based on information from discussions with community and business leaders in Dickinson and the best assessment we can make of the approaching oil activity.
While it is not yet possible to gauge our long-range classroom needs, we are confident the district will be prepared in the short term for the eventual arrival of the oil activity and the people needed to fill the jobs. The administration and school board will continue to assess the long-range needs of the district as we strive to stay ahead of this issue to prevent the large class sizes that would be necessary without this project.
Sullivan is the Dickinson Public Schools superintendent. Contact him at
701-456-0002 or by email at email@example.com.