Bond election set for December 7
“It will be very serviceable and a very nice building,” said Mark Vollmer, Minot Public Schools Superintendent, in response to a citizen’s question about renovation plans for the Cognizant Building on Minot’s northwest edge.
The building, which Vollmer called a $14 million structure, was gifted to Minot Public Schools for $10. It is a 115,000 square foot facility that formerly housed about 1,000 employees. Under the Realignment Project the building would undergo construction and remodeling for the purpose of becoming a second comprehensive high school in the Public Schools system, capable of accommodating approximately 1,200 students.
In his presentation Vollmer touted increased academic and extracurricular opportunity for adding a second high school to the system.
“It means two first chair trumpets in the band, two leads in the spring play, two football teams, two quarterbacks, opportunities for advanced classes on both campuses,” said Vollmer.
The proposed Realignment Project, and what voters will be asked to support, includes improvements and remodeling to Magic City Campus, the city’s lone grade 11-12 public high school. Improvements designed to convert the facility to a 9-12 comprehensive high school include adding science classrooms, career and Technical Education space, and an additional gymnasium.
Central Campus in downtown Minot, currently part of Minot High’s split high school campus housing grades 9-10, is also scheduled to see some changes if the bond referendum passes.
“We will need to make a few improvements at Central Campus, but it will be the building that will be impacted the least,” stated Vollmer. “It’ll be a great facility for a third middle school.”
“The largest classes are now in middle school. We’ve got 14 portable classrooms, 130 students over capacity at Jim Hill, and Ramstad is at capacity.”Mark Vollmer, Superintendent, Minot Public Schools
Middle schools are for grades 6-8. The new look Central Campus would join Jim Hill and the recently constructed Erik Ramstad in the school district’s middle school lineup.
“The largest classes are now in middle school. We’ve got 14 portable classrooms, 130 students over capacity at Jim Hill, and Ramstad is at capacity,” said Vollmer. “All of our K-6 classes are over 600 kids. From 1973, when Magic City Campus was built, to now, our population has grown from 32,500 to about 50,000 and there’s a lot of kids in high school.”
A positive stressed by Vollmer was that having kids in one building at the high school level for four years, rather than the current two, would foster better relationships between students and teachers, and eliminate travel for students attending classes at split campuses.
The ballot for the bond referendum will include three separate questions, the first seeking approval of $84.4 million for repurposing the Cognizant Building, construction and remodeling of Magic City Campus and changes to Central Campus.
Question No. 2 asks for $24.2 million for a pool and athletic complex at the new Cognizant Building high school. The pool would be a 50-meter competition facility.
“It would have a dive well, a center competition area, a warmup and cool-down area, with room for 600 athletes on the deck at any one time and room for about 800 spectators,” explained Vollmer. “That would put us in the rotation for state swim tournaments and also for weekend activities, swim club activities, and the like.”
“What our constituents said [in 2013] was, take care of your immediate need. In 2014 we got 68% approval to build a new elementary school.”Vollmer
Question No. 2 also includes money for turning an artificial turf field included in Question No. 1 into what Vollmer described as a “full-blown soccer and football stadium” with concession area, press box, and changing area.
Question No. 3 asks voters to increase the debt limit for the school district from 5% of the assessed value of taxable property, as fixed by State Constitution, to 10%. Thus, if Question No. 2 passes but Question No. 3 fails, then Question No. 2 is disallowed.
All three questions require a 60% majority from voters to be approved. The last successful bond issue for building a high school in Minot was in 1969. A 2013 bid to pass a bond issue for both elementary and high school expansion failed.
“We got 50% vote on that. What our constituents said was, take care of your immediate need,” stated Vollmer. “In 2014 we got 68% approval to build a new elementary school.”
Some expected operating costs, should the bond referendum meet with the approval of voters, would be offset by the moving of educators from currently crowded middle schools to the downtown facility.
Approval of the bond referendum comes with an increase in property tax. Using an average Minot home price of $278,000 the tax increase would be $316.25 per year for Question No. 1, and $413.96 yearly if both Questions No. 1 and 2 receive 60% voter approval.
Absentee ballots for the upcoming special election will be available Oct. 28 at the Ward County treasurer’s office. The Ward County Administration Building will be open for early voting from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 29, Dec. 3, and Dec. 6. Poll hours at the lone voting location, the Minot Auditorium, will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 7. Only residents of Minot Public School District are eligible to vote in this special election.