Minot’s crowded classrooms a long-term challenge

According to school district officials, Minot’s public school enrollment now is greater than during the height of the oil boom.

Based on the supposition that the number will only continue to increase in the coming years and that “… Minot is becoming a younger community,” according to Superintendent Mark Vollmer, this is a long-term challenge with no quick or easy resolutions.

The obvious solution is expanding existing capacity. However, infrastructure is expensive and the general mood of the community is not favorable to additional spending. Even district officials are aware that winning approval from voters for a new bond issue would be difficult. Voters have only given the thumbs-up to such a school bond issue once since 1969. The electorate did approve a $39.5 million bond issue in 2014 that paid for construction of John Hoeven Elementary and additions at Edison and Perkett elementaries primarily.

An additional bond five years later, regardless of need, would be a hard sell.

Expense isn’t the only challenge. Even if a bond issue had a higher chance of success, officials would then have to decide to what degree to expand. While enrollment is up at local schools, Minot’s overall population dipped, albeit slightly, in estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau in May. While it was only a one percent reduction and an estimate, it could be an outlier or it could be a sign that Minot’s population is trending that way.

Other statistics certainly don’t appear to indicate an outflow of population. According to the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce’s Economy at a Glance report, released just last week, housing sales are trending upward, as is activity at Minot International Airport, among other positive signs.

While the issue of planning for how much expansion is reasonable will be further down the line, it will still be another part of the challenge faced by the district.

Minot Daily News does believe the district is correct in looking for public input on the overcrowding challenge and that a broad conversation is the best chance for a solution.