Presenting the facts on the school district election
On December 7 voters in the Minot Public School District will make a crucial decision for the future of our students and community. Our job, as a district, is to present the facts and educate the community about the Realignment Project that is being proposed.
The last successful bond for building a new high school passed in 1969 and Magic City Campus opened in 1973. We ran a large bond referendum in December 2013 that would have included a second high school, and this failed to meet the 60% threshold required to pass a school bond. We received 50% of the votes in 2013 and were told by the community at the time to deal with the most immediate need, which was in our elementary schools. We had 23 portable classrooms outside our elementary schools at that time, so we came back in April of 2014 and passed the elementary school bond, leaving middle and high schools to be addressed in the future. We kicked the can down the road and now we are at the end of that road.
Minot Public Schools is currently managing overcrowding in our two middle schools with 14 portable classroom spaces outside Jim Hill Middle School and Erik Ramstad Middle School, which was built in 2014 with room for growth of 150 students, is at capacity. With current enrollment numbers, next year we estimate 100 more students in our middle schools, which could require additional temporary portable classrooms at both Jim Hill and Ramstad. By 2024, we are expecting to have around 200 more middle school students than current middle school enrollment numbers.
There are also high school challenges, as our high school students in the current configuration transition between 9-10 grade at Central Campus and 11-12 grade at Magic City Campus. We are one of the few districts in the country with a split high school campus. This unique campus split creates problems for many students, who are transitioning to a new school, with new administrators, counselors and teachers, at a time where they have met the compulsory age of attendance and are able to drop out of school. With over 2,000 students currently enrolled, Minot High School is also the largest high school in the state, limiting academic and extracurricular opportunities for students.
What we do have is a great head start. In 2020, the district was gifted the Cognizant building in north Minot for $10, providing millions in saving towards a second high school. Just this year, we were awarded $10 million in ESSER Funds to go towards the Realignment Project, which must be expended by 2024. The new school opening and transition to the Realignment Project would be targeted to take place in the fall of 2024. We are committed to moving the project forward as quickly as possible to alleviate overcrowding at middle schools and move students out of portable makeshift classrooms.
The proposed solution includes creating two comprehensive 9-12 grade high schools – one high school at the Magic City Campus and a new high school at the Cognizant building, and converting Central Campus into a third middle school. This eliminates the transition of students going between the current configuration of the split 9-10 grade and 11-12 grade campuses. It also creates academic opportunities for all high school students, provides more class choices with updated facilities, builds stronger relationships with principals, counselors, educators and students and creates more extracurricular opportunities for all high school students in fine arts, student government, athletics and more. The conversion of Central Campus into a third middle school addresses overcrowding and the need for portable makeshift classrooms, improves the safety and security of middle school students and alleviates downtown parking congestion with fewer student drivers.
Throughout this entire process we’ve spent a lot of time gathering input through team meetings that started in May, four stakeholder workshops with over 200 participants from ages 14 – 93 that took place in July, steering committee meetings throughout August and continued focus group meetings this fall. We’ve worked hard to educate the community on the challenges and solutions with three community open houses at Cognizant and over 90 presentations given in the community to service clubs, organizations, businesses, coffee groups, associations and more. Now it is up to the voters.
There are three questions on the ballot:
QUESTION 1: $84.8M for two comprehensive high schools and a third middle school
The project includes construction, remodeling, and repurposing of the former Cognizant Building, a 115,000 square foot facility, including development of green fields for physical education and a turf competition field. The project also includes improvements and remodeling at Magic City Campus to a comprehensive nine-through-twelve high school building including science classrooms, Career and Technical Education space, and an additional gymnasium, and improvements to Central Campus from its current nine and tenth-grade configuration to a comprehensive sixth-through-eighth grade middle school.
QUESTION 2: $24.2M for a pool and athletic complex
Addition of a 50-meter competition pool and an athletic complex with full stadium amenities on the turf field at the north high school property.
QUESTION 3: Increase the debt limit of the district
This question allows the district to sell the bonds needed to complete the work in Questions 1 & 2. Question 3 does not give district additional taxing authority. Simply put, this question allows the district to increase our debt limit from 5% of the district’s taxable valuation (as outlined in North Dakota Century Code), to 10%.
A side note:
We have been made aware of multiple resolutions of support from user groups but also these organizations: Downtown Minot Business & Professional Association , Minot Area Chamber EDC, Visit Minot, Bakken API Chapter, Magic City Aquatics, Minot Association of Builders, Minot Family YMCA, Minot Realtors Association, Minot Swim Club, Minot Infrastructure Committee