Mandan News

Wilfred Volesky: Questions on the construction of a new elementary school

The recent discussion about the construction of a new elementary school has created a number of questions that need to be answered. In this article I will attempt to address several of the questions that seem to come up most often.

What are your current student population growth projections? Identify the need for the new school.

As of Sept. 15, 2011, Mandan had 1,451 students enrolled district-wide in its five elementary schools. This enrollment is similar to the 1,474 students that were enrolled in Mandan in 2000-2001; however, in 2000-01 in addition to operating the five current elementary schools, Mandan Public Schools leased classroom space from St. Joe’s School and operated Collins Elementary School to accommodate its elementary students.

Although we currently have several elementary classrooms in the district that are larger than we would like to see, we would not be considering building if we expected our enrollment to remain at the current level.

Conservative estimates using Morton County birth rates show that in five years (2016-2017) Mandan Public Schools will have an elementary enrollment of 1,769 students. This is an increase of 318 elementary students over our current enrollment. This estimate does not include any estimates of students, born outside of Morton County who move into the Mandan School District.

What are the current and projected sizes of classrooms with and without a new school?

According to the N.D. Dept. of Health, birth rates in Morton County ranged from a low of 284 births to a high of 314 births from 1997 to 2004; from 2005 to 2011, the Morton County birth rates have ranged from a low of 340 births to a high of 402 births. Historically, approximately 80 percent of Morton County births end up in Mandan Public Schools. Assuming no in or outward migration and just counting 80 percent of Morton County births as future MPS students, K-5 enrollment will rise from 1,451 students in 2011-2012 to 1,769 in 2016-2017. That is an increase of 318 students over the next 4 1/2 years. If we do nothing, class averages are projected to change as follows:

Grade                         2011-12     2016-17

Avg. Class Size

Kindergarten                     23.3     25.5

1st Grade                            22.3     27.5

2nd Grade                          19.1     27.5

3rd Grade                           24.1     26.6

4th Grade                           20.7     26.1

5th Grade                           20.3     25.5

We believe these are conservative estimates, because these numbers are based solely on birth rates and do not factor in families moving into the Mandan School District. We also believe that the average class size in 2016-17 would be too large to provide students with a proper education.

If four additional rooms could be added to Fort Lincoln, why wasn’t that option selected?

The board believes adding four classrooms to Fort Lincoln is insufficient to meet the future classroom needs of the district. Adding four classrooms to Ft. Lincoln would not eliminate the need for a new school. Therefore, the board believes it would be a wiser decision to commit the dollars it would take to build four classrooms on to Ft. Lincoln toward a new elementary school.

In addition, the three schools with the highest average classroom sizes (Lewis & Clark, Roosevelt, and Custer) are all in the northern half of the district.  Bussing students from north Mandan to south Mandan is problematic, because all buses need to stop at the high school and middle school, which are in the northern half of the district. This means the natural flow of bussing is from south to north.

Where would the location be for the new elementary school?

At the present time the school board is planning to locate the school on land the school district owns in the northwest part of the city. The school is hoping to sell 6 acres of the 30 acres it owns in this area so that lots can be developed and new homes can be built next to the school. The revenue from the sale of these lots should cover the infrastructure costs associated with the new school.

As we continue our discussion regarding the new elementary school, new questions will come up. I will try to provide answers to many of those questions in the months ahead. We will also be scheduling several public meetings to provide you with information regarding the school. We will inform you of those dates once they are scheduled.