Mandan News

Wilfred Volesky: Questions on construction of new elementary school

Last month I attempted to answer four questions that seem to come up about the Mandan School District’s plan to build a new elementary school in northwest Mandan. I will again attempt to answer other questions that have been brought to our attention by patrons.

 

1. Why did the school district buy the land in Lakewood?

In 1978 the Mandan School Board looked to the future and purchased 30 acres of land in northwest Mandan as a possible location for a future school. The cost of this property was approximately $0.06 per square foot. We feel this was a very wise decision to purchase the property for that price since it certainly would be more expensive today.

The current Mandan School Board is also looking to the future with the purchase of 24.5 acres of land in Lakewood area. The 24.5 acres is located between Prairie West Golf Course and the intersection of 39th Avenue. and McKenzie Drive. The school district paid approximately $0.56 per sq. foot for the land. A smaller parcel of property at the corner of 40th Avenue and McKenzie Drive recently sold for around $2 per square foot. The property the school purchased was not affected by flooding in 2011.

The Lakewood area is experiencing rapid growth. New apartments, townhomes, condos and single family homes are being constructed at a rapid pace. In 2011, despite the flood scare, the city of Mandan issued building permits for 237 housing units; 200 of the 237 units were in the Lakewood area (25 single family homes, 14 townhomes, 77 condos, and 84 apartments).

2. Why did the school board decide to build in the north part of Mandan over the Lakewood land that was just purchased?

The school board is convinced that with the population growth in the Lakewood area that it is just a matter of time before a new school is needed in that area. However, currently only 89 K-5 students living in the Lakewood area are enrolled in Mandan Public Schools. While other students may live in the Lakewood area, they do not currently attend Mandan Public Schools.

In the northwest quarter of our district (north of Interstate 94 and west of Sunset Avenue extended north to the Morton County border), we have 254 K-5 students currently enrolled in Mandan Public Schools. This difference in current enrollment made the board lean toward selecting the northwest location for the next elementary school in Mandan.

3. How will the new school affect where other children go to school? If a lot of children move from Lewis and Clark to the new school, where will the children come from to fill Lewis and Clark’s space?

Elementary attendance boundaries will need to be redrawn if a new school in open. It is difficult to predict the exact location of those boundaries two to three years into the future. However, school boundaries would be drawn so that we can make the best use of classroom space in each elementary school and have classrooms in the same grade with an equal number of students.

4. What are the benefits to the southeast part of Mandan if a school is built in the northwest?

Regardless of where a new elementary school is built it will reduce elementary class size for all students. It will also allow district officials more flexibility in honoring parent requests when placing students in schools.  Currently it is roughly a 20-minute drive, one-way, from the Lakewood area to the Fort Lincoln School. Families in the Lakewood area may prefer to send their children to Lewis and Clark Elementary, which would cut the drive time by six or seven minutes each way.

5. How will bussing of students be affected?

Mandan Public Schools will continue to offer bussing to students who live more than 1/2 mile from the school they are attending. This is currently occurring in all schools in the District.

The School District hired a demographer to help us determine future enrollment trends and to determine where our 0- to 5-year-old children are living in our district. We should have this information during the latter part of April. Once we have the information we will create a brochure with current and future enrollment data, a facility plan with approximate cost, tax implications for patrons and answers to questions commonly asked by patrons about the proposed new elementary school. The school board will also have several public meetings to present information and to answer questions patrons may have. You will be notified when the public meetings will be held.