Board holds retreat to discuss school planning

Preliminary budget estimates for a new addition at Edison Elementary are nearly $1.5 million over the original estimate, architects said during a school board retreat on Monday evening.

However, about $1.12 million, or 20 percent, could possibly be shaved off the budget for the safety and security improvements that will be made at all of the schools in the district and those funds could be redirected towards the Edison addition.

Board members held a retreat at the Grand Hotel on Monday to go over plans for the planned classroom additions at Edison and Perkett Elementaries, for a new 550 student elementary in southeast Minot and for the safety improvements. Voters approved a $39.5 million bond issue in April that will pay for all of the new school construction.

Edison is over budget because more space is needed to move classrooms out of basement than had been previously anticipated, said superintendent Mark Vollmer.

“Are you dedicated to getting out of the basement at Edison?” business manager Scott Moum asked the board members at the retreat.

Board members said they were. Though no decisions could be made during the retreat, board president Jim Rostad and board member Laura Mihalick said they would prefer to spend down the district’s reserve fund if necessary to build the Edison addition and do everything else the district originally had planned to do with the school addition.

“It needs to be done,” said Mihalick.

The current plans are to begin construction in October on the new classroom additions at Edison and Perkett and complete both by August 2015.

Committees have toured schools in Bismarck and looked at designs for other elementaries that have been built recently. At present, planners are leaning towards a two story design for the new elementary. Rostad said the district has decided 550 students is a workable size for an elementary and a larger 800 or 900-student school would be too large. A 550 student school would have four class sections for each grade. Construction on the new elementary is set to begin in the spring of 2015 and be completed by August 2016.

Work on the safety and security improvements at the schools would possibly take place over the summers of 2015 and 2016. Those improvements would include such things as security vestibules, enhanced video surveillance, magnetic catches on specific doors that would make it possible to shut off certain areas of a building and keep intruders out of certain areas if need be, and panic buttons that would dial 911 in different offices. It would also involve relocation of front offices in certain schools or the addition of security windows.

The April bond issue was intended to address growth at the elementary level, but superintendent Mark Vollmer suggested that another bond issue might be necessary within a couple of years if the district continues to add 275 to 300 students per year.

Vollmer said he is also keeping an eye on a study being done by the state legislature that could result in the student-teacher ratio in grades K-3 being lowered to 15 students per teacher. If that proposal took effect, it would require the Minot school district to add an additional 40 or 50 classrooms, said Vollmer.

The school board will hold its next meeting on July 10.