New England school emerges as biggest election winner

After several years of pushing for funding for an expansion of the campus on 12th Street, New England got the numbers it needed to start building, according to the school superintendent.

Brad Mosher

The Herald

A bond issue for funding the expansion of the New England school campus had passed before.

But the winning margin hadn’t been large enough.

Superintendent Kelly Koppinger thinks that has changed after garnering more than two-thirds approval in the Nov. 6 election.

“Unofficially, the measure passed by a pretty wide margin, so I was pretty happy with the results,” he said.

It was a special election on the ballot that was focused entirely on the city of New England, the superintendent added. That meant the local school board had to meet Monday (Veterans Day). “They have to look at the ballots and make sure it actually passed. We have to do it Monday because of the timeline. We have to meet by a certain date – within six days – confirming or canvassing the results. Once we canvass the results on Monday, we can make everything official.

“It passed. It passed pretty overwhelmingly. We’ll make it public after Monday because that is when we can officially advertise the results,” he explained.

That mean the process of building can start, the superintendent said. “We’ll meet with the buiding committee. We’ll finalize some of the things that we need to take a look at. That will be drawings and sketch stuff,” he said.

“We look for requests for bids for the project. There are still some things we will have to clean up,” the superintendent said.

“We are pretty close to where we need to be. We’ll probably meet a few times with the building committee … then we will have the architects go to work.

“I am hoping that we are going to break ground this spring,” he added. “The completion date will be in the fall of 2020 – that is what they are telling us.”

The project will add about four classrooms to the school, re-purposing some other space into smaller learning environments,” the superintendent said. In addition, the school will be adding a cafeteria and a P.E. Facility.

“It will work out pretty well,” the superintendent said about how the school would be affected by the construction. “Some of it just attaches to the existing facility, so as far as displacement, we won’t have anybody displaced. They won’t do any renovating of the rooms until the new classrooms are ready to go.

“We probably won’t have a lot of disruption in our everyday flow of the educational environment that we currently provide to our students. It actually worked out pretty well,” he said. “The building committee managed to put together a building proposal won’t lead to distractions.”

The school is using a local architectural firm, GT Architecture of Dickinson.

The project, once finished, will enable the school to meet expected student growth for more than a decade, the superintendent said.

“Looking at our current projection rate, and extrapolating that information over the next five to 15 years, this will put us in a position to take care of the growth pretty effectively,” he said.

One reason for the expected growth is that more people are willing to move to a small town for a quieter and simpler life that they have in a bigger city like Dickinson, the superintendent said. “We do a nice job preparing our kids for the future and that is showing in the enrollment projections.”

The school draws from about a 20 to 25-mile radius in every direction. “We go into Amidon. We go just short of the Dickinson area. We get down close to the Regent area. We go down south and west quite a ways,” he said.

That large area can mean long bus rides. “We have added more routes so they are not too terribly long. Most of our routes are about an hour and 15 minutes in length,” he added.

“Late last year, we applied for a state school construction loan. It was approved. With the timeline that the state had we didn’t have enough time to really get the information out.

The superintendent recalled that the previous time the bond was on the ballot it had passed, but by less than the two-thirds majority the project needed to start.

“The second time we put it on the ballot, we had more time to get the information presented to our public,” the superintendent said. “They could see some of the things we are experiencing – that our student enrollment has more than doubled in the last eight to nine years.”

That growth has put a strain on the current facilities, according to Koppinger.

“We  had four community forums. We went out and talked to the senior citizen center and other organizations as well,” Koppinger said.

The bond referendum for the school building project had been put to the people a year ago. “We needed 60 plus one vote.”

Now, they have that and the process of adding to the school can start.

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