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Second high school in Minot would require bond issue

Bond issue likely if Minot wants second high school

File Photo The Cognizant building is under consideration as the site of a second high school. The Minot school district is buying the property for $10.

Minot voters will have to approve a sizable bond issue if they want a second high school, even with an existing building to work with.

Mark Lyman, board member with Minot Public Schools, told the local government liaison committee Tuesday that Cognizant’s offer to sell its northwest property to the school district for $10 is an amazing gift, but the buildings are a long way from being high school-ready.

“A 110-120,000-square-foot building is great, but that’s not a high school size. High schools are 250,000 square feet. So we know that if we’re going to do a nine through 12 high school up there, which is the goal, that we’re going to have to double the amount of space. There’s no cafeteria. There’s no gym. There’s a lot of things you still have to build on site,” he said. “So the reality is we’re going to have to go out for a bond vote.”

When that vote might take place is uncertain. Lyman, whose term on the board expires later this month, said the new board will have to make the decision based on a variety of factors.

The school doesn’t yet have deed to the property, which Cognizant plans to exit by December 2021. Some functions might remain for a while longer, with the company paying a pro-rated share of facility operating expenses. Voya Financial’s lease on a second building expires in August 2021 but an option exists to extend it for another year.

Jill Schramm/MDN Central Campus, a high school for ninth and 10th grades, would be converted into a middle school if Minot builds a second high school.

Lyman said design of a high school could take nine months to a year, and time also would be needed for public engagement and education before a vote. Whether the district wants to hold a special election or wait until a regular election to place a bond issue on the ballot will be a decision of the new board, he said. The next regular election would be in June 2022.

The existence of the Cognizant buildings will mean a savings of $20 million to $25 million in construction costs, Lyman said.

However, even with that savings, a bond issue of $40 million to $50 million is possible, considering the potential cost of full build-out, he said. Some changes would be needed at Central Campus to convert it to a middle school and at Magic City Campus to make it a full 9-12 high school, he added.

Whether any state trust fund dollars might be available also is uncertain, particularly given the current economic times affecting the state budget.

“The best way to pass a bond vote is not to raise property taxes right before you do that – by anybody, not just your own entity,” Lyman told city, park and county officials. “Now is the time to seriously say, if we want our community to advance in education, we need a bond vote that’s going to pass.”

Lyman said a second high school should be considered. Minot Public Schools has about 2,000 students in a single high school, which is by far the largest in the state, he said. It also is one of few in the country that splits its high school into two buildings with separate grades. It means a loss to students of continuity with principals, counselors and educators, he said.

“It’s not good for them educationally,” he said. “Having those kids in that high school setting – nine through 12 – that’s where education has been for decades. That’s where we need to be.”

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