The Bismarck School Board on Monday night reviewed a new facilities plan that addresses growth at Bismarck's elementary schools, as well as an outdated school.
The school board agreed Monday night to issue a Request For Qualifications, or RFQ, for architects to identify costs associated with expanding Grimsrud and Centennial elementary schools. Costs for additions at these schools, as well as upgrades at Northridge Elementary School, will be discussed early next year.
The plan, which is an ongoing document, follows a school board workshop late last month where board members discussed recommendations made by a elementary facilities committee. In June, the elementary facilities committee suggested the school board close Highland Acres and Roosevelt elementary schools and redraw boundary lines to alleviate overcrowding at other schools. The school board later shelved the committee's proposal to close the two schools — in part due to public outcry over the proposal — and decided against any boundary changes.
Under the facilities plan, Grimsrud would be expanded to reduce crowding at Liberty Elementary School, and additional classrooms would be added to Centennial for students living in the Promontory Point area located north of Bismarck.
A total cost has not yet been calculated for the school board's latest plan. Renovations at Northridge alone could range from $2.3 million to $4.4 million, according to preliminary cost estimates from an architect, who presented figures at the Nov. 27 school board meeting. The architect's total cost for Northridge outlined in a master plan has not yet been completed.
The school board has also decided to hold off on making boundary changes until fall 2018 enrollment numbers are reviewed.
School Board President Karl Lembke said after the meeting that the board is taking a measured approach to the facilities plan due to stagnant enrollment growth.
"The reason that we have time is because enrollment numbers aren’t coming in the same way we thought they were," Lembke said. "What if it came back that Liberty's not going to be full next year? Would we have to make a boundary change? That's why we have to take our time with this."
Three parents and members of the group Bismarck Alliance For Neighborhood Schools, a group which sharply criticized the idea of closing Highland Acres and Roosevelt, spoke out against the proposals Monday night. Some asked school board members to further review their facilities plan.
Lembke said after the meeting he appreciated their comments. During Monday night's meeting, he explained the proposals to expand Centennial and Grimsrud and renovate Northridge were still under advisement.
"I think that they just bring up a lot of good points about why this decision is so complex," he said.
Liberty parents cite student safety concerns
A group of about six parents attended the Bismarck School Board meeting Monday night to discuss concerns about the safety of their children at Liberty Elementary School.
Germain Krueger, who spoke to the board on behalf of the group of parents, said their children, who are all fifth-graders at Liberty, and their children's teacher have been in an "unsafe classroom environment" for the past four months.
Krueger says the group has spoken with school officials about their concerns about safety, to which she did not elaborate, but "as a group we have no feeling of resolution."
"Now we're coming to you, the board of elected leaders of our district, to hopefully find a solution to this dire classroom situation," she said.
Krueger gave board members eight letters written by parents about their 10- and 11-year-old students' experience at Liberty, which outline daily encounters in their classroom.
School Board President Karl Lembke said during the meeting that on Monday a potential resolution to the situation has been identified.
Lembke said after the meeting that he could not comment further due to privacy allowed under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, which protect the confidentiality of student records.