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Board discusses school additions

Dickinson Public School Board members feel a class-size issue is creeping in and propose funds are available to fix it.

On Monday evening, board members gave administration the go-ahead to have an architectural firm draft additions to Jefferson and Lincoln Elementary schools.

"With the increased enrollment we are going to have, we are having some challenges and we have to start addressing it," said Dean Rummel, Dickinson Public School Board president.

The district was anticipating about 200 kindergarten students, however enrollment is about 220 for all elementary schools combined, Rummel said.

"For whatever reason, in 2004, there were a lot of births here in Dickinson," Rummel said. "Our class sizes have been running 180, now all of a sudden we were up 40 in one year."

Vince Reep, business manager, said with the number of sections increasing, schools are having a tough time scheduling physical education classes.

"In both facilities (Lincoln and Jefferson) right now, the gymnasium and the cafeteria are one in the same -- the kids eat in the gym," Reep said.

The proposed additions would add an additional six classrooms and a multipurpose room to each school.

With a price tag estimated at $1.6 million for the Jefferson addition and $1.5 million for the Lincoln addition, administrators feel the additions can be made without borrowing money or raising taxes.

"We will be receiving some AARA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) stimulus money through the state in the tune of about $2.2 million," Reep said, adding funding would be a combination of state stimulus money and funds on reserve in the district's capital projects account.

The additions could solve space problems and prevent further ones, Reep said.

"After we get some enrollment projections finalized, we think that it will create some extra space at Heart River and Roosevelt because they really only have room for two sections of each grade, but yet we have a third section of grade two at Roosevelt and a third section in kindergarten at Heart River," Reep said.

Enrollment projections can be made five years out, said Rummel.

Kathie Carlson, secretary at Lincoln Elementary, said enrollment this past school year ended with 288 students. Carlson said projected enrollment for the 2009-2010 school year is 299 students.

"We've been watching new births at St. Joseph's Hospital for years and that's kind of how we project," Rummel said.

Reep said they hope to use a local architectural firm, though no decisions have been made.

The board plans to hold public input meetings in September to discuss enrollment, the need for additions and funding.

"If we cannot do it (funding) internally with what we have ... I would not anticipate us moving forward with this option," said Rummel.

Lincoln Elementary Principle Del Quigley and Jefferson Elementary Principle Becky Meduna were not available for comment Tuesday.