Finding a direction

The growth in the Minot school district is hard to miss, said parents who attended a community meeting on the future direction of the school system on Monday night at Magic City Campus.

Steph Drago and Laurie Dimond, both parents of young children attending Minot schools, were among nearly 200 people who attended the first of what will be three public forums.

Both said they attended the meeting to gather more information about what is being planned and think it is important for the school district to measure the demographic trends in the district. They notice that portable classrooms are in use at some schools because there isn’t enough space in the brick and mortar school buildings. School additions are being added at Longfellow and Lewis and Clark elementaries to accommodate some of the growth in north Minot.

The community meetings, led by representatives of Anderson Wade Whitty and DLR Group, are intended to gather information about community priorities and provide information for a master plan. The second of the meetings could be held next month. The district is likely to ask voters to approve a bond issue to pay for new school construction sometime next fall or winter.

“This is an exciting time and it’s a challenging time,” said superintendent Mark Vollmer, who said that, even with no future growth, the district will have more kids in middle school in six years than it can accommodate. There are 2,004 students in grades K-2 and there will be room for only 1,570 students. Vollmer told the crowd that the school district and community is at a crossroads. Minot can remain a community with good schools and parks or it could turn into a “suitcase community” if action isn’t taken, he said.

Of the 200 some people who attended the meeting on Monday night, about 80 percent were parents of current students and long-time residents of Minot. Most rated the quality of education provided at Minot schools as good or average; more than 70 percent of people at the meeting think that Minot public schools make good use of their tax dollars. On the other hand, 29 percent of people rate the quality of buildings for education as bad, while 53 percent rated them as only average. Most favored eventually going to two 9-12 high schools instead of one large high school.

When asked to rate the most important qualities for a school environment, about 40 percent of the people said a school should be a place for “engaged learning.” The second priority, at 23 percent, was for a school to be safe and secure. Safety and security are more important to parents after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, said some in the crowd. The third most important quality for a school is that it provide similar opportunities for all students to learn, said the parents.

The consultants from Anderson Wade Whitty and DLR Group will take the results from the meeting and build on them, said Vollmer. He encouraged people from the community to attend the next two public forums and give input about the future of the school system.