Middle school

Construction on the northern end of the Mandan Middle School will add 10 classrooms. The project is expected to be completed by August.

In five years, Mandan High School will be over capacity by about 150 students, which Mandan Public Schools Superintendent Mike Bitz said is "a big concern."

Enrollment is expected to increase by more than 500 students over the next five years in Mandan Public Schools, according to the latest enrollment projections presented last week to the Mandan School Board.

The high school and some of the district's elementary schools will be over capacity in the next five years, prompting board members to discuss options.

"We're looking at five years when we need (additional space), so it's almost like we need to start doing something in the next year or year and a half, which, I think I made a comment that these are very sobering numbers," said School Board President Tim Rector. "I didn't think we would run out of space that soon."

Last year, the school board decided to build a 10-classroom addition onto Mandan Middle School. The addition, scheduled for completion by August, will increase the school's capacity to 1,100 students — enough space for the projected 1,000 students in five years.

Bitz said the board will have to move fast on a decision on how to accommodate the increase in students at the high school, which he surmised is about 60 to 70 years old.

"It's an older building. I don't think there's any way we're going to do an addition onto the high school," he said.

Growth in MPS is nearly identical to Bismarck Public Schools, according to Bitz. The last projections were done about three years ago, and the school board needed updated numbers.

Bitz said despite impending overcrowding at the high school, the latest enrollment numbers show "manageable growth."

"It's not something we have to be in panic mode," he said.

Rector said the school board will have to discuss elementary and high school space, which will likely occur at a board retreat this summer. District officials assigned certain space requirements for the six elementary schools, no larger than three sections, and one option could be building another elementary school.

The district purchased land in the Lakewood area in south Mandan, which could be an option for an elementary school.

Rector said the board will have to delve further into the enrollment projections and look at other possibilities. In the past, the district has been vigilant in constructing school buildings for fear of overbuilding.

"(If) these numbers look like we need a new (elementary) school, I want to make sure we need a new school before we build a new school and have a bunch of vacancies," he said.

School Board Member Sheldon Wolf agreed the board needs to evaluate the numbers but also needs to ensure that the district has enough resources for students as enrollments increase, including classrooms and teachers.

"We need to walk through that and look at our options and what we can do and what changes we can make," Wolf said, particularly at the high school, which he said is "not a light decision."

"To build a new high school, for example, is very expensive. What other options are out there? And there are options, we just got to talk through them," he said.

Bitz said the school board's facilities and finance committee, which is composed of community members, board members and teachers, will look at alternatives this month to bring back to the board.

Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com.

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