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Letter: Community needs to be involved in school planning

On Monday, Dec. 9, Dickinson Public Schools held a community meeting about the future of the facilities in the district and the turnout was low. Perhaps the weather limited attendance. There is no doubt the district is growing. What are they going to do about it? These forums are where the community can have a say.

Some of the buildings in the district are older and received D’s on their facilities report card. Two of those are Berg Elementary (a sixth-grade-only school) and Hagen Junior High (seventh and eighth grades).

With the present building, Hagen Junior High quite simply does not have enough classroom space for all of the current seventh- and eighth-graders.

They are already using Berg as an overflow facility. In looking at the patterns of growth and the capacity of the buildings to serve the student population, my opinion is that the district should make its first priority to build a middle school/junior high that can serve sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

The middle school model mirrors the Common Core state standards and, as was pointed out at the community meeting, allows the administrators, faculty and special services staff get to know their students better and increase the help they can provide during those crucial middle school years as they transition from elementary to high school.

If parents are concerned about their sixth-graders being in the same school as eighth-graders, we can look at Mandan Middle School’s layout as an example where they are in the same building but there is a distinct sixth-grade wing, which is more isolated but on the same campus.

What about the growing elementary population? If the population trend continues, there will be more elementary students too. I contend, if the middle school is built first, Berg Elementary can be used as a K-5 school, which alleviates the pressure at that level. This can be temporary if the district believes that the building is not sufficient for long-term use or it can continue to be utilized in the future.

The community’s voice needs to be heard. The district needs a plan by early spring. Come register your opinion at one of the next two facilities meetings.

Joan Cartmill,