Wilfred Volesky: Option for elementary enrollment and space issues
The Elementary Enrollment and Space Committee that was created by the Mandan School Board completed their work and made recommendations at their May 12 meeting. These recommendations will now be presented to the school board at their first June school board meeting on Monday, June 6.
You may wonder why this committee was created and why we have such a concern about our future enrollment. If we consider just one data source, that being the Morton County births, we can see that enrollment increases at the elementary level will continue. Prior to 2004, the number of births in Morton County were never more than 314. From 2005 to the present, the lowest number of births was 340, with the highest being 390. We believe that a minimum of 80 percent of those births will attend school in the Mandan School District, which means at a minimum our kindergarten class will have 272, students with the possibility of having as many as 312 students. The students born in 2005 and later are now just entering our school system. This data source shows that our elementary enrollments are likely to continue to rise.
To get community members involved in deciding which options would be best for the school board to consider the Elementary Enrollment and Space Committee was created. This committee consisted of 42 community members. Many of these members volunteered while others were called to be a part of the committee. The committee had five options presented to them that were previously discussed by the Finance and District Facility Committees. The committee added a sixth option, which was to do nothing. The six options are:
1. Do Nothing
2. Modify School Calendar
3. Use Portable Classrooms
4. Renovate, use the GPA
5. Construct four classrooms at Fort Lincoln
6. Build a new Elementary School
The Committee was divided into six subgroups with each subgroup studying one of the options. Most of the committee members had the opportunity to choose the subgroup on which they wanted to serve. Each subgroup met over a period of three weeks prior to May 12 to study their option. At a meeting on May 12 each committee made a presentation to the entire committee. Each of the six presentations consisted of the positive as well as the negative issues surrounding the option they had studied. After each subgroup made their presentation, committee members had an opportunity to ask questions to clarify or challenge the subgroup members on the information they presented.
After every subgroup made their presentation, all members of the committee as well as community members that were present to listen to the presentations, had an opportunity to rate the options. School board members, the co-chairs of the committee and school administrators used as resource personnel, were not allowed to vote.
Committee members used the district’s ActivExpressions, an electronic voting device, to vote so that the voting was anonymous. The committee members were asked six questions on the options. The first question asked was, “Which of the six options do you see as the most viable option?” The second question was, “What do you see as the second most favorable option,” the third question, “What do you see as the third most favorable option, all the way through the sixth option.” Each committee member needed to vote on each option.
When committee members voted on the their most viable option the top three results were 53.1 percent to build a new school, 28.1 percent to build four classrooms at Fort Lincoln and 9.4 percent to renovate and use the GPA. When considering the second best option the top three results were 50 percent to build four classrooms at Fort Lincoln, 18.8 percent to build a new school and 12.5 percent to renovate and use the GPA. The top choice for 53.1 percent of the committee members was to build a new school. However, when you consider the top two choices made by each member the results show 78.1 percent favor adding four classrooms to Fort Lincoln and 71.9 percent favor building a new school. This will make the discussion regarding the best option quite interesting.
At the June 6 school board meeting, board members will have their first review of recommendations made by the Elementary Enrollment and Space Committee. I am confident they will take the committee recommendations very seriously. Yet the board needs to consider what option they feel is best for the long-term interest of the school district and current and future Mandan students.
The school board will have some tough decisions to make in the coming months. Although there may be questions surrounding their decision, we hope that you lend your support to help make the option or options chosen work for the Mandan education community.