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Lewis & Clark School District
"We broke ground on this in March, and it should be done by Thanksgiving," said Brian Nelson, Lewis & Clark School District superintendent.
According to Nelson, the project will be paid from the district's general and building funds over the next 15 years, with annual payments of $180,000. "We're going to put grades one through four here," Nelson said as he stood . . . . Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!
"We might just have to do our business differently," said Lewis & Clark School District Superintendent Brian Nelson.
"Maybe there would be no busing, or we would just teach math, reading, science and English and cut out all the other stuff." Nelson estimated his district would lose about $1.375 million in the general fund, $145,000.00 in the building fund and $73,000.00 dedicated to technology. According to Nelson, the district levies 99.09 mills for the general fund, the maximum 10 mills allowed for the building fund, and 5 mills approved by voters for the technology fund. "If the state supplies the tax dollars, we're still funded," he said. However, he was concerned about suggestions from some Measure 2 proponents that the state could rely on oil and gas taxes to replace property taxes. "If that funding goes south ever, will people have to vote again to property taxes? he asked. "People should ask themselves, do they want to take this out of the constitution?" The Lewis & Clark district is also facing a crowded classroom problem at Berthold Public School, with district patrons narrowly defeating a bond issue in January that would have funded an expansion of that facility. "We have a definite need there," said Nelson.
"We understand they want to annex because their kids are going to school in Max," said Brian Nelson, superintendent of the Lewis & Clark School District.
"But they can open enroll [their children] without annexing their property, and some have chosen to do so. At this time, some families who live two, three or four miles from Makoti have chosen to send their kids to Max." Nelson explained that the annexation may have been submitted in response to an opinion filed September 15, 2011, by the North Dakota Sate Supreme Court in the case of Lee Brandvold, Steve Bigelow, Dwight Johnson, Nikki Johansen and Bruce Peterson (the Ryder Group) vs. District superintendent Nelson explained the school board viewed the closure as way to save expenses without reducing services. "The enrollment there had dropped from 60 to 30 students during those seven years," he said, "and with two buildings to serve at that end of the district instead of three, we were hoping our teachers for music, physical education and title programs wouldn't have to spend so much time on the road." He noted that if the Ryder school had remained open that year, the kindergarten teachers in Ryder and Plaza would each have had two students in class. "We didn't want to duplicate those kind of services to kids," he said. The district also saved money in administrative and custodial costs, as well as utility expenses. "Now we run three lunch programs in the district instead of four," Nelson added, "and nobody has lost any services." Nelson said the Lewis & Clark School District was not offering an official opinion on the annexation request yet. "There are a lot of unknowns to find out before we take a position on anything," he said. Nelson noted that parents make the choice to open-enroll their children for a variety of reasons, including opportunities for course offerings and proximity to a school. "We have a big district, and some people feel they want to go to a school in another district that's actually closer," he said. "Some kids have left the Berthold school for Minot because they wanted more course offerings." He explained that any children living in the district could attend any of the schools in the district. "We want our patrons to realize that for kids in the Lewis & Clark district, they have a choice of two high schools," he said. Superintendent Nelson can be contacted for more information about the Lewis & Clark School District at 701-453-3484.
And so far, Lewis & Clark District superintendent Brian Nelson likes what he hears from the public about that vote.
"There's a lot of support for the project," he said. "People do see there's a need for this." Nelson and members of the Lewis & Clark school board held six meetings throughout the district in November to show the proposed changes to taxpayers and to answer questions and hear concerns about the project. According to Nelson, some of the meetings scheduled outside of Berthold were attended by few people, although residents in those communities will also be voting on the bond issue. "When I talk to people one-on-one in those places, everybody knows there's a need," Nelson said. "One of the questions we do hear is 'Why aren't you building it bigger?'" Nelson said. Nelson reminded patrons that, according to state law, the district is limited as to the amount of debt it can incur. Nelson was pleased to receive information about recent bond sales for projects planned in other school districts around the region. Ray School District secured a rate of 2.52 percent for 20 years, while the low bid for a Minot Public School District project came in at 2.61 percent. "Dickinson and Hazen have low rates, too," said Nelson. "We've been saying 3.5 percent as we've talked about our bond issue, but we might be estimating too high. That's almost a whole percentage lower, and that's only good news for us!" Additional space in Berthold will not close other schools The only negative response to the proposal has come from patrons in the Ryder and Makoti areas, where Nelson said some parents who have been opposed to the consolidated Lewis & Clark School District from its inception have submitted a petition to annex their properties to the Max School District. "They're telling people around there that we're going to close all the schools and force the students to go to Berthold," Nelson said. "They're not opposed to the bond issue itself. They just don't want to be in this school district." Superintendent Nelson emphasized the bond issue will not automatically result in the closure of any other schools in the district. "We always have discussions about how to educate our kids and give them the best opportunities," he said, "and there seem to be one or two sets of parents each year who are moving their kids to Berthold because of the courses that are available there." He pointed out the district has the authority to close schools, as deemed necessary, at any time. "We can always have a conversation about how to the meet the needs of our kids, and the district may have this conversation years in the future," he said. Nelson is hoping to see at least 400 votes turned in from parents and grandparents of Berthold students to support the project. "Make sure you get out and vote for this thing," he said. Persons with further questions about the building project or the special election should contact Lewis & Clark School District Superintendent Brian Nelson at 701-453-3484.