Posted 9/09/14 (Tue)
By Stephanie Allums
Farmer Staff Writer
If children eating lunch in the gymnasium, instead of the cafeteria, isn’t a red flag, then it’s unknown what is a big enough issue to deem it time for a school expansion.
The Alexander Public School District’s student body surpassed the cafeteria capacity at the beginning of the previous school year, according to Superintendent Leslie Bieber.
“Our cafeteria is way too small,” she said. “We have to feed our kids in the gym right now, because we can only cram about three classes into our cafeteria. It takes about an hour and a half just to serve everyone lunch.”
In 2007, Alexander’s enrollment was 53 students from kindergarten through the twelfth grade. Today, there are 185 students enrolled at the school, which is approximately a 300 percent increase in seven years.
“We need to be able to fit comfortably in our building in order to provide quality education,” Bieber said. “We need more space because right now we are cramped.”
On Tuesday, Oct. 7, Alexander Public School District will have a $17.1 million bond election vote. The bond will be used to expand the school building, renovate existing portions of the school and add the needed room to keep up with the growth in numbers.
“After the bond passes, we plan to break ground in the spring of 2015,” Bieber said. “This project would nearly double the school building in size.”
There will be a total of 11 new classrooms added - six on the elementary end and five in 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. It is expected that the bond amount will cover the entire cost of the project.
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.
Bieber said some of the mechanical, electrical and technology needs within the district will also be addressed.
Some of the renovations would include the school’s main office and teacher work rooms, along with the library. The parking lot will also get some attention and upgrades with this bond amount.
“We want to improve the safety of our kids in the parking lot when they are loading and unloading the busses,” Bieber said. “We don’t want to see kids running out between busses, trying to get to their parents who are picking them up.”
Not long before the oil boom hit, at a time when enrollment was shrinking, the Alexander School almost closed its doors.
The most recent demographic study that was completed is only four students off from the projections of today. By the 2018-2019 school year, the projections are for 360 students at Alexander.
“It’s exciting to be able to keep the school open and be able to bring back sports and introduce new programs,” Bieber said. “Our main focus for the administration and school board is to continue our small school feel with one-on-one, student-to-teacher time.”
Because there has been such a large increase in the high school, more electives are a necessity, she said. There was more growth in the upper levels than expected.
“The city of Alexander and the school staff has been very supportive and wonderful,” Bieber said. “My staff puts in a lot of extra time and effort into making sure we are taking care of our kids. Because most of the school board members are also involved with other township boards, they are very aware of what’s coming to Alexander and what’s not. That has been great when helping plan the future of our school.”
Bieber believes that a school is the main focus of any community.
“The greatest thing about Alexander is the community,” she said. “They come in wearing native jackets and boots; parents help cover events when needed; and they financially support others who cannot make it on their own.”
Bieber would like to invite individuals who may have questions about the $17.1 million bond and the school expansion to come to her with questions.
There are three public forums to address questions scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 18, Thursday, Sept. 25, and Thursday, Oct. 2. All of them begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Alexander School.