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Offering input: Community discusses future of Dickinson Public Schools

Press Photo by Katherine Grandstrand Dickinson citizens gathered at the Hagen Junior High gym Monday to provide input to the DLR Group, a Minnesota-based architecture firm conducting facility planning for Dickinson Public Schools.

Parents, teachers, community members and community leaders gathered at Hagen Junior High on Monday to discuss the future of Dickinson Public Schools.

The school district, in an attempt to plan for its future — not just for the current period of growth, but also for the next 20 to 30 years — contracted with the DLR Group, an architecture firm from Minneapolis.

“Nobody knows exactly how many kids are coming,” said Chris Gibbs, principle with DLR, “Nobody knows exactly when they’re coming.”

The second of three planned meetings, Monday’s event had more than 100 participants. The previous meeting held in December on an evening of inclimate weather drew few people.

The public input forums are a chance for community members — regardless of their parenthood status — to have a say in the way the district grows.

After a brief introduction, citizens broke into smaller groups and were asked about the class configuration of Dickinson Public Schools and what new building they would like to see next.

The schools are set up with kindergarten through fifth divided between five buildings, all sixth-graders at Berg Elementary, all seventh- and eighth-graders at Hagen, and most freshman through seniors at Dickinson High School, with those who would be served best by Southwest Community High School taking classes there.

The groups were asked to rank that configuration and three others:

V Add sixth-graders to the seventh and eighth grade to create a middle school.

V Divide the elementaries by grade, grouping kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade, and sixth through eighth grade.

V Put the sixth-graders in the same building with the rest of the elementary, grouping seventh-and eighth-graders with freshmen, leaving the high school to consist of sophomores, juniors and seniors. Southwest Community High School would still serve freshmen through seniors.

The consensus of those sharing their rankings with the large group was to create a middle school for sixth through eighth grade, and leave the high school and elementary schools the same.

Gibbs asked the small groups to rank four building scenarios, building another new elementary, building a middle school, remodeling the high school and building a new high school.

Of those smaller groups sharing, a new middle school ranked as the next building they would like to see added to the district. A new high school came in second. Many of those who ranked the high school first suggested moving the middle school to the current high school building.

Hagen Principal Marcus Lewton explained some of the space issues to the Dickinson Public School Board at its regular meeting Monday before the public forum. The junior high has been sharing classroom space with Berg Elementary across the street.

“I don’t know if, in (the 2017-18 school year) if it’s going to work,” Lewton said. “I can tell you right now that you do not have enough classrooms in Berg and Hagen for ‘17 and ‘18.”

There will be one more public input forum with the DLR Group that has yet to be scheduled. DLR is studying the quality of the district’s buildings and the education received in addition to taking public comment.

“If the conversation stops when you walk out the room tonight, then I haven’t done my job,” Gibbs said. “It is incredibly important for you as a community to continue to talk — at the coffee shop, at the supermarket, across the fence, off the driveway, wherever it might be. Talk with your friends, talk with your neighbors, talk with your friends’ neighbors, but continue the conversation, because at the end of the day, this is your decision.”

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
(701) 456-1206