‘It’s tough on these kids’: Minot teacher says of crowding as special election for $100M bond referendum approaches

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“We got great kids, great families and a great community but we are out of space,” Minot Public Schools’ Superintendent Mark Vollmer said.

It’s a great but rapidly growing community.

“We are desperately short of space,” Vollmer stressed.

That’s especially true in the middle schools, and those students will soon move on to the two high schools where there are already about 2,000 students.

So what would change if Minot residents vote yes on Dec. 7?

There are three questions on the ballot.

Question one would allocate $84.8 million to the remodeling of both existing high schools and the $14.5 million Cognizant building that was gifted to the district.

Vollmer said, “It impacts three buildings in the district and changes the way that we offer educational services to our students.”

Nine through 12 high schools would stand on each end of town. Both of those buildings would be remodeled to accommodate the four grades and make room for things like science labs, gymnasium space and equal locker room space for boys and girls teams.

When Jim Hill Middle School Principal Mike Arlien started at the school 14 years ago, there were 600 students and three portable classrooms were being used even then.

Now, there are more than 800 students and 100 more are projected for next year.

“Coming off a Thanksgiving holiday and having a house full of people, you can manage and cope for an afternoon or a day at the most but then you start wearing on everybody and I think with our overcrowding we see behaviors that manifest, anxieties that manifest from being overcrowded,” said Arlien.

Some classes have nearly 30 students. Class transitions and dismissals are staggered to alleviate traffic, lunch periods are spread out and now there are 14 portables.

“We just have too many kids going inside to outside, inside to outside throughout the school day and now we’re eating lunch at 10:45,” said Scott Delorme, a teacher at Jim Hill Middle School and Middle School athletic director. “It’s tough on these kids but they’re tough too and they’re doing a nice job but it’d be nice to see a change for them.”

The second item on the ballot would add facilities, like a competition-size pool at the new high school that more than triples the seating space of the one at Magic City Campus.

These photos (in the video above) illustrate the crowding at a kids club swimming event a couple of weeks ago. Back in 1973 when the school was built, Vollmer said it was the premiere pool in the state.

“And as time has gone on and other school districts have built new pools and new schools, it’s not the premiere pool,” he explained. “It’s limited seating and isn’t handicapped accessible to our visitors that are coming to watch.”

That second item is a $24.2 million question. It would also include a stadium for football and soccer, creating two venues for high school activities and phys-ed classes.

“I’ve been to West Fargo, I’ve been to Fargo, I’ve been to Bismarck. And we’re just lacking in facilities,” added Delorme.

The third item on the ballot asks voters to allow the district’s debt ceiling to reach 10 percent. State law limits it to 5 percent.

Sixty percent of voters have to vote yes to pass the measures. Early voting began Monday and will be held through Dec. 3 and again on Dec. 6, all at the Ward County Administration Building.

Election day is next Tuesday, at the Minot Auditorium from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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