Creative problem solving needed to address Minot school challenges

The Minot Public School Board must feel like they are trapped between a rock and a hard place.

On one hand, at a retreat Thursday, the primary discussion was about strategies to address anticipated overcrowding at the middle school and high school levels as large elementary classes move up into the higher grades. (At the last retreat session, board members and administrators talked about whether it might be feasible to turn Central Campus into one large middle school and what the staffing needs might be.)

It is certainly an issue, although one can reasonably wonder how a future population growth – or reduction – could affect the situation within just a matter of a few years.

On the other hand is the availability of funding. Voters approved a scaled back $39.5 million bond issue in April 2014 that paid for construction of the new John Hoeven Elementary as well as additions at Perkett and Edison Elementaries and safety improvements at all of the schools. They had rejected a $125 million bond issue in December 2013 that would also have paid for construction of a new high school and renovation of Central Campus into a fourth middle school.

It’s a tougher environment out there with taxpayers today than it was five years ago. Administrators and board members alike have acknowledged that it might be difficult to get voters to approve a second bond issue at a time when property taxes have gone up in other areas. Even among people who fully understand and recognize the need, another bond issue these days seems like it would be a hard sell.

The board is rightly open to suggestions from the public and presenting the reality of the situation to taxpayers.

There certainly does not appear to be an easy answer or else the very capable school board would have presented it.

Instead, it appears it is going to take some serious creative problem solving to address the challenge; or a serious shift in how the efficiency of our schools is measured.

It’s uncomfortable being trapped between a rock and hard place. Hopefully the board members, with help from stakeholders and the general public, can find their way out of the situation, catch their breath and look to the longer term to avoid duplication of the problem in the future.