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Alexander breaks ground on school expansion project

Posted 8/25/15 (Tue)

By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer

The Alexander Public School held its ribbon-cutting ceremony for their new expansion project  on Tuesday, Aug. 18. There to celebrate were school officials and teachers, students, members of the construction company, and community members.
“I’m so grateful for the staff I have,” said Leslie Bieber, Alexander Public School superintendent. “If it weren’t for their support and flexibility, things wouldn’t have gone as smoothly as they have. I’m very excited for this expansion project. It’s greatly needed.”
Construction on the new school expansion started on Wednesday, Aug. 19. According to Brandon Kasler, Project  superintendent on-site with Kraus-Anderson Construction Company, his crew started taking the existing structures down, which includes the old tennis court and an old concession stand.
“Next week, we’ll start digging holes and we’ll start the excavation,” said Kasler. “Then we’ll be placing concrete the week after that. There will be three additions in this expansion project - an A, B, and C wing. Utility work will also start in about a week or two. We’ll have to bring sewer and water to the new additions here. We’ll continue to work to get those structures (A, B, and C wings) up this year and when school is out next year, we’ll move into the existing area to begin remodeling the inside of the current building. We’re excited to get going on this project.”   
According to Kasler, the $15 million project should be complete by July 31, 2016.  
Planning on the expansion/remodel of the school began in the summer of 2014.
“Last summer is when we began talking about and looking at the different needs of our students and staff,” said Bieber. “With the new addition, the school will add 13 more classrooms, a second gym, a new kitchen and cafeteria area, and a fitness center that will also be open to the community outside of student activity. Then renovation of the current building will take place and that will include renovating the administration suite, the teacher’s lounge or work space, the library, and the science room/lab. Those areas will all be updated.”
In addition to the school’s physical growth, several new staff positions have been added to adhere to the ever-expanding student enrollment numbers. According to Bieber, the school has created three new positions including a second physical education teacher, an agriculture teacher, and a middle school teacher. Beyond creating three new positions within the school, Bieber says they’ve also hired two new additional teachers, for a total of five new teachers for the 2015-16 school year.
“Just this year, we have five new teachers,” said Bieber. “We now currently have 22 teachers and 18 classrooms. We’d like to add to our middle school because they really need a little more of their own identity. And as of today, we are currently at 192 students enrolled in grades pre-K through 12th grade, and that includes nine students who just registered today. It’s our highest enrollment year with the most teachers we’ve ever had. Really after Labor Day is when we see the biggest climb in student numbers.”
According to Bieber, the school peaked at 180 students last year and ended with 174. She says close to 40 students will go in and out of the school in a year. And well over 60 percent of the students attending the school are kids that were raised in Alexander.
“The numbers say that we have new families here, but well over 60 percent are kids that were raised here,” said Bieber. “It says that the young families have stayed here and had children, and that’s because of the job opportunities now. With the expansion of our school, we’ll finally have the room to split and move. Last year, we had close to 25 kids in Kindergarten and we didn’t have the room to split or move. The expansion will finally allow for that to happen.”
Now that one goal has been met with the ground-breaking of the expansion project, Bieber is excited to also be moving forward with her goal of adding Alexander’s own sports, as well as building upon the current STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) curriculum that was started last year.
“Our goal is to have a strong STEM curriculum for K-12th grade,” says Bieber. “We will want additional STEM teachers, along with more core teachers. And our sports will start this fall. The kid’s energy about the expansion and sports is so exciting to see. When I grow tired, it’s really that motivation from the students that keeps me going.”
The Alexander School Foundation hoped to raise $45,000 to aid the school with the return of the Alexander Comets in 2015-2016. And they did just that. Then, they raised another $28,000 for the scoreboards. Those scoreboards are already up in the basketball court and the goal posts will be up soon, according to Bieber. The football field has to be surveyed first, but that should be happening in the very near future.
“Our first football game is coming up on Saturday, Sept. 5,” says Bieber. “It’ll be our first football game in 27 years. We’re so excited and we hope everyone comes out for it.”
The school will offer football, boys and girls basketball, and volleyball. And Alexander Public School will still co-op with Watford City High School for other sports.