No easy solution to challenge of classroom space

Minot Public Schools will host a series of meetings throughout the school year to present to parents and interested members of the community an update on the status of classroom space throughout the district and seek input on the challenges on the horizon.

In the meantime, students, faculty and parents should prepare for busier classrooms and continued – possibly expanded – use of portable classroom facilities. That’s because there is no clear solution to the crowding challenge.

Jim Hill Middle School is over capacity and Erik Ramstad Middle School is at or near capacity. The district uses portable classrooms to manage the space issue. Larger classes have been the norm in the early elementary grades and the enrollment numbers seem to be stable from year to year. As those classes move up through the grades, there will continue to be space challenges at the middle and high school buildings.

Voters approved a bond issue a few years ago that paid for the construction of John Hoeven Elementary and of additions at other elementaries. However, the odds wouldn’t appear to be good for suppport of another bond. Property taxes continued to shoot up in the current proposed city budget, the county is seeking an increase, Minot’s cost of living is not decreasing and the school district is already operating with a deficit. This might be the most difficult time in years to secure public support for bond finance.

Additionally, Minot’s population is not increasing at a rate that will inspire taxpayers to support another bond. Students progressing through grade levels makes for a good argument, but many will still say it’s a matter of utilizing available resources better.

Millions of students in major cities spend the bulk of their classroom time in portables without it somehow being considered the cause of an inferior education. They are hardly ideal, particulary in our environment. But it is something to which Minot should adapt. Major infrastructure investment is going to be a tough sell in today’s economic environment.