Thank you to Bismarck Public School residents for your support of past school construction projects and your consideration of the March 7 bond election for middle and high school space.
The Bismarck Public School Board is particular when it comes to determining how to respond to space shortages. Both the internal public (school staff) and external public (citizen volunteers) invest many hours to learn the need, discuss merits and concerns of options, and then, finally, offer recommendations for the board to consider. This process has simply become how we do business.
In 2012, voters approved a bond for three schools: Liberty Elementary, Lincoln Elementary and Legacy High School. About 75 people — employee and citizen reps from every BPS school — resolved that moving sixth-graders to the middle schools, redrawing boundaries to maximize all space, and creating an elementary-to-middle-to-high school feeder made sense.
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At that time in 2012, BPS knew secondary schools would become crowded, “in about five years.” However, the community advised that adding a middle school to the 2012 bond was too much at once. Last year, 2015-16, the board convened another 75-member Facility Committee to look at enrollment trends and space needs.
That group had five evening meetings, toured several schools over their lunch hours, and hosted three community meetings. They concluded their study by recommending to the Bismarck School Board to add on to the three existing middle schools instead of building a fourth school. Their logic was a new middle school would disrupt the feeder system, cost more than adding on, and remove the opportunity to invest in core city schools. This committee also said it made sense to increase the size of Century High School from 1,000 to 1,600 to accommodate the larger classes coming from Horizon Middle School. Finally, the committee felt it was time to modernize Bismarck High, adding an auditorium and lengthening the main gym.
Next, our board reviewed plans from four local architects over several meetings. The board then decided to hold a $57.5 million bond election on March 7 to add space to all five schools to accommodate the 1,500 additional students coming to middle and high schools. Due to retiring debt, the passage of this bond would not increase the 2015-16 debt service levy.
I encourage all Bismarck Public School District residents to please vote on this important issue.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 7. BPS residents may vote at any public school regardless of their precinct. Absentee ballots may be cast at the Hughes Building, 806 N. Washington St., through March 6. More information is available at www.bismarckschools.org/district/growth. Thank you.
Tamara Uselman is the superintendent of Bismarck Public Schools.