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Squeezing in one more classroom

Posted 3/20/13 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

With the number of projected students entering the Watford City Elementary School hitting the highest numbers in recent history, the McKenzie County School District No. 1 school board has decided that it has to try to squeeze one more classroom into a new addition that is scheduled to open this fall. But as school board members found out during their monthly board meeting on Wednesday, March 13, that new classroom is going to come with a fairly steep price tag.
“The cost to add one additional classroom as well as a new storage area in the new school remodeling project is going to cost $143,062,” stated Steve Holen. “That cost includes $7,000 for the protective wall covering that is being put into all of the other classrooms, as well as an additional $26,000 cost to bring water into that portion of the new school addition for a sink.”
While it was Holen’s belief that the cost to bring water to the new classroom seemed cost prohibitive, some school board members felt that it was essential that water be available in the classroom.
“If it is going to be a kindergarten room, then we’ve got to have a sink,” stated Gary Bruins, school board member. “They have a lot of projects that the students do. And they need a place to wash up.”
With the addition of the one classroom, Watford City will have 29 classrooms available for kindergarten through fifth grade in the elementary school for the start of school next fall. With increased enrollment, the district is planning on having five sections of class for kindergarten through fourth grade and four sections of students in the fifth grade.
“I like the concept of keeping this additional classroom adaptable,” stated Brad Foss, elementary school principal. “We can use it as a kindergarten or special needs classroom or whatever we need it as.”
And flexibility, according to Foss, is the key going forward at the elementary school,
“Right now, we don’t have that flexibility,” stated Foss. “Every single space in the elementary school has been taken.”
The funding for the additional classroom, according to Holen, will come from the building project’s contingency fund.
“I don’t like using that much of our contingency fund,” stated Bruins. “But we’ve got to do it. And if we wait to put the water in later, it is going to cost us five to 10 times more.”
While the school board may have struggled with the decision to spend $143,062 on an additional classroom, it wasn’t prepared to deal with the cost to do something about the parking lot at the elementary school.
During Wednesday night’s meeting, Holen presented the board with three options for new parking lots at the elementary school.
According to Holen, while the district has not budgeted any money for parking lots at the school, the board is going to need to decide what they want.
“This (the parking lot) isn’t the highest priority of the elementary school construction project,” stated Holen. “But it’s up to the board to decide if it is a priority.”
According to Holen, the district is looking at three different parking lot options which range in price from $451,000 for a gravel lot to in excess of $1.1 million for a paved lot.
“It’s hard to look at a $1 million parking lot right now,” stated Holen. “Maybe we could look at a $400,000 parking lot.”
With the school district not having any money for a parking lot, Holen told the board that the district may have to look at a cooperative agreement to have the city and the county do some of the dirt work.
During Monday night’s meeting, the board also began work on the district’s calendar for the 2013-14 school, which could start later than normal to ensure that the elementary school is finished.
“At the present time, we are hoping that the school will be finished on Aug. 12, which would give us a couple of weeks to get the classrooms ready,” stated Holen. “If that works, we are looking at the first day of classes on Aug. 26 with the last day of school being May 23.”
But in order to accommodate a later starting date and still have school end before the Memorial Day weekend, Holen says that the board is going to have to tweak some of days that the district has allowed for holidays.
“It’s an uncomfortable calendar at this time,” states Holen. “It is a work in progress that the board will be approving at a later meeting.”
In other business, the school board approved the hiring of three new teachers at the elementary school so as to allow for four sections of classes for grades three, four and five. In addition, the board approved hiring a full-time music/physical education teacher who would split their time between the elementary school and the high school, as well as approved hiring a halftime English Language Learner position in the district.