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March Mania

School board discusses options for additions

Berg Elementary Principal Tammy Praus, reads through class size projections and building addition options during a Dickinson Public School Board meeting, Monday evening.

An influx of students this year has left school officials concerned with lack of space, and building additions are in the works at what school board members say is at no cost to the taxpayer.

The Dickinson Public School board mulled over four options for additions to Lincoln Elementary and Jefferson Elementary at Monday evening's school board meeting and DPS Assistant Vince Reep said the biggest question remaining is, "How big do we build?"

The public is invited to a special meeting at 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12 at the Central Administration Building to discuss and decide on an option.

Building additions will be funded mainly by a $2.2 million chunk of federal stimulus money the district must use by September 2010.

Projections show Lincoln and Jefferson will both need additional class space.

Estimates show each will need one additional classroom in 2010, and one more each year until 2013 when Lincoln is expected to need two more classrooms.

"In nutshell, when we opened the doors in September, in K-5, we had 132 more students than we did the previous May," Reep said.

"It's the perfect year for this to happen," Reep said.

A section of kindergarten was added at Heart River in June and a 12th section was added at Lincoln in August.

Reep said the two additional classrooms took essentially all the space left in the kindergarten through fifth grade buildings.

Some special education students were displaced and moved into conference rooms and remedial reading students were grouped together.

"Next fall we are going to be two classrooms short," Reep said.

While student numbers over the next five years, for the most part, stay steady, the influx of students this year will "just ripple through" and if kindergarten numbers level off, the space will still be needed, Reep said.

Four options of school additions were presented at Monday's meeting.

The first option would add six classrooms and a multipurpose room to both Jefferson and Lincoln which, in addition to the stimulus money, would withdraw $604,000 from the capital projects fund the first year and about $300,000 the second year.

Option B, recommended by Reep and school board President Dean Rummel, would take about $604,000 out of the capital projects fund.

"It is not an overly aggressive option," Reep said.

Estimates for a brand new school sit at about $9.63 million, which is well above the building addition estimates.

"Dickinson Public Schools is not making a frivolous move here by any means," Reep said. "One thing we don't want to do is buy things just to buy things."

Jan Prachl of Dickinson-based architectural firm Hulsing and Associates Architects, said in order to stay on track with bidding and construction, she recommends the board decide on an option by November.

Prachl estimates bids on the project will run through the end of March.

In other news:

r The Dickinson Public School is taking a proactive approach in preventing a widespread flu outbreak by installing hand sanitizer stations and dispensers, while school staff are encouraging students to use sanitizer when necessary.

r There are three students on the waiting list for Dickinson's Southwest Community High School and as of this school year, 58 students have earned a degree through SWCHS, said Superintendent Doug Sullivan.