The right thing to do

Jim Rostad, Minot

Election Day is nearly here. On Dec. 10, the voters of Minot will be asked to approve the sale of $125 million in general obligation bonds to build a new elementary school, build additions at two existing elementary schools, convert Central Campus into a third middle school, convert Magic City Campus into a 9-12 comprehensive high school, construct a new 9-12 high school, and provide safety and security measures in all district buildings.

The decision to hold an election came after thoughtful research and discussion, including several group meetings held in the community. The board has developed a comprehensive plan that will take care of our needs for many years to come.

Opponents of the bond issue would have you believe this work is simply not needed. Their assumptions are based on incorrect data. I encourage you to drive by Washington Elementary School where you can see students walking from portable classrooms to the main building in the frigid cold to access the bathroom, lunchroom, counseling office and gymnasium.

Since 2007, the district has experienced substantial growth. This growth has resulted in an additional 1,200 students in our district. An in-depth scientific study indicates we can expect another 1,000 students in the next five years. Currently, the district has 720 students in kindergarten. Grades 1, 2, & 3 have well over 600 students. This growth will create an extreme shortage in the middle school in just a few years.

After the flood of 2011, the school board hosted several community input meetings. These meetings helped the district shape a vision for the future. This vision was further discussed during a series of community forums during the spring of 2013. These forums were attended by parents, grandparents, and concerned citizens of the Minot School District.

Some may also have you believe the state has money readily available for Minot to build schools. Again, this is simply not true. According to state officials, use of these funds for school building projects would require an amendment to the state constitution and changes in federal law. The board is committed to seeking assistance from the state in order to meet the challenges directly related to growth and we have worked with local legislators to ask the Attorney General for an opinion on this matter. In 125 years of statehood, the state government has not funded school building projects. That being said, we believe the state is in a unique position to provide grants to growing school districts and additional property tax relief to its citizens. We believe this change must happen through legislative action.

In October 2013, the school board passed a resolution that states any funding from state or corporate sources will be used to pay down debt or reduce the amount of bonds sold. We are committed to working on this issue during the next legislative session. Our elected officials have demonstrated a willingness to provide property tax relief but we simply can’t wait until 2015 to move forward the board believes that the time for action is now.

Our district currently has 7,400 students enrolled in our academic programs, with a projection of 1,000 students to come in the next five years. A “no” vote will not change this. An unsuccessful bond election will result in additional overcrowding of schools, increased class sizes, frequent redrawing of attendance lines, increased use of non-conventional spaces, continued use of existing portables, more students competing for limited extra-curricular activities and added expense if we wait to build.

Those who take the time to review the facts will find the bond issue is needed and is the right thing to do: I encourage you to check out our website to learn the facts about current enrollment, enrollment projections and overcrowding in our district.

(Rostad is president of the Minot Public School Board)