Posted 9/23/14 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
With enrollment in the Alexander School District expected to grow to 300 students by the start of the 2018-19 school year, the district’s administration and school board know that its existing school is too small for that growth. Which is why Leslie Bieber, Alexander School superintendent, is hoping that district patrons will turn out on Oct. 7 to support a $17.1 million bond issue to enlarge the existing school.
“Our current school only has a maximum capacity of 180 students,” states Bieber. “We have 183 students in kindergarten through grade 12 today. And we are expecting 216 students at the start of the 2015-16 school year.”
Like so many other school districts in western North Dakota that have seen enrollment grow as a result of the influx of people moving into the area looking for jobs in the oilfield, Alexander’s School is struggling to find room to educate their students.
“Our goal is make this the best school, and to have the best education that we can for our students,” stated Bieber, during a public forum last Thursday. “But we’ve outgrown our building.”
According to Bieber, students are now eating their lunch in the high school’s gymnasium because they have outgrown their existing lunchroom. In addition, the district has had to bring in a modular classroom to house two grades.
As part of the $17 million expansion, 11 new classrooms will be added to the building - six for the elementary school and five for the high school. The school will get a whole new cafeteria and kitchen to accommodate the enrollment growth.
A total of 50,000 square feet will be added to the existing building, which would nearly double it in size. And roughly 8,000 square feet of the existing building will be renovated.
Also included in the project would be the addition of a second gym equipped with lockers and bathrooms.
“In order for us to have physical education classes, we need to have a second gym,” Bieber said.
A weight room will also be added, and eventually it will be opened to the public for recreational use.
For Jeremy Heen, Alexander’s School Board president, the bond issue would allow the district to meet the needs of a rapidly growing school.
“It’s hard to predict how many students we’re going to have,” states Heen, who is a 1994 graduate of Alexander High School. “But we know that with more housing subdivisions going in north of Alexander, we will be seeing more students coming to our school.”
The projected growth in student numbers isn’t something that Heen would have ever guessed would have happened.
“When I graduated from Alexander High in 1994, there were nine of us in the graduating class, and the class sizes behind us were shrinking,” states Heen. “We never dreamed that we would see this.”
During a public forum held last Thursday, Bieber informed a crowd of interested Alexander area residents that based on today’s taxable valuations, the $17.1 million bond issue would require a levy of 52 mills and that the bonds would be paid back over 20 years.
According to Bieber, while all the district taxpayers would see an increase in their school taxes, the bulk of the increased taxes would be borne by commercial businesses and utilities.
The school district will be holding its final forums on the proposed bond issue on Sept. 25 and Oct. 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the Alexander School Library. The forums will begin at 6:30 p.m.
During the Oct. 7 election, Alexander School District patrons will be asked to vote on two measures - to support the debt increase and to support the school project.
“We need both measures to pass,” states Bieber.