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Additional Mandan classrooms needed

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Mandan School District voters will go to polls in a special election Tuesday to determine whether to build a new elementary school. At issue is a $12.5 million bond to construct a 62,700-square-foot building in northwest Mandan for kindergarten through fifth-grade students. It’s in response to pressure from a growing population, including estimates that the district will add more than 500 students over the next five years.

Building a new school would be a smart investment for the Mandan community. Voters should say “yes.”

A majority of the expected new students will be at the elementary level. Mandan’s Roosevelt and Mary Stark elementary schools have enrollments of about 270 students. Most of the increased school population will be of elementary school age. The proposed new school would have two classrooms at each grade level.

The city is growing both north and south, so deciding where to build the new school was a dividing issue. However, the district’s need for the classroom space is not up for debate.

In recent years, the Mandan community reached deep and approved the building of a new middle school. To that the school board added a sixth-grade wing. Each school improvement has addressed a long-felt demand for adequate classroom space. The middle school replaced an aging and cobbled-together junior high school. Moving the sixth-graders out of the elementary school — first to the old junior high,and then to the new sixth-grade wing at the middle school — took pressure off the elementary schools.

Now healthy economic activity in Mandan and neighboring Bismarck have brought new residents to the city, many of whom have school-age children. Similar growth in business activity and population in Bismarck pushed that school board to ask its voters for a two new elementary schools and a new high school. Bismarck voters responded this week with a 85.07 percent favorable vote.

Passing the bond issue will cost owners of a $100,000 home about $48 a year, according to Mandan School District figures.

Recently, the school district approved its 2013 budget. Because of growth and increased property values, the district will be able to see increased revenues while reducing its mill levy by almost 10 mills.

It reflects a reasonable and cautious approach by the school board to finances. The proposed bond issue also is reasonable and takes a cautious approach to growth. Mandan school voters should approve the school bond.

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