For years, overcrowding in Minot Public Schools has been a topic of discussion. Now, school officials are feeling the heat from elected leaders to face the problem head-on.
Minot City Council members approved a five-year permit to allow Jim Hill Middle School to use portable classrooms. The motion passed, but not without some voicing their concerns over the safety of the structures.
“The concern I had is fire safety and just safety in general. Those are wooden structures. They don’t have the safety that other brick buildings would have,” said Alderman Stephan Podrygula.
Alderman Podrygula says his concerns came after a letter from Minot’s Fire Chief to the planning commission. In the letter, Chief Kronschnabel stated that those types of modular structures are notorious for burning very quickly and have the ability to spread to others, and with seven total portables now, the space to ensure safety is less than before.
“I voted and proposed that we require the school system to install a portable alarm system in those buildings, so the fire department would immediately be notified if there is an issue, if there is a problem,” added Podrygula.
That motion failed by a vote of 5 to 2 with Alderman Podrygula and Pitner supporting it, which lead to a bigger question: What long term plans are in the works for the overcrowding in Minot schools?
“We know that these portable classrooms are not the answer to our growing problems in middle school or eventually high school as well, but they are in the meantime a plausible solution,” said Superintendent Mark Vollmer.
In 2013, the school district asked voters for $125 million to build a new high school, convert Central Campus to a third middle school and to build an elementary school. That bond failed.
Superintendent Vollmer says a community meeting was supposed to be held this spring to get the input of parents, but COVID-19 happened.
“In the meantime we want to do everything we can to not overcrowd the building, to be flexible with our scheduling. Bottom line, we are just short of space and we’ve got to do something,” added Vollmer.
Dr. Vollmer says the middle school already has a very intensive fire alarm system installed in the school and in its portables.
They are, however, looking to tie in the alarm system with the telephone dial-in system to alert officials of a fire after hours.