The Bismarck School District has placed a $1.9 million “no tax increase” bond issue on the April 3 ballot for the funding of projects Superintendent Jason King believes will offer increased student safety, as well as improve the quality of education at the school.
“Our highest priority as a school district is to make sure that students are learning in a safe and secure environment,” he said. “We currently have a dangerous situation with the proximity of our current high school office in relation to the high school entrance.
“For example, when a visitor is buzzed through the high school entrance, there is an approximate distance of 125 feet between there and the office. Feedback we’ve received from law enforcement, teachers, administration, students and the community all indicate that the current setup greatly impairs our ability to prevent someone from doing harm to students or staff in an intruder situation. Visitors have full access to our building without ever visiting the office.”
To resolve the issue, the district is proposing that the high school office be relocated to the front of the building where it will join with the high school entrance.
“The new office will be located where the large planter box is – just inside of the current high school entrance,” King said. “The office will include a secured entrance to our high school. Visitors will come through an initial set of double doors, at which point they will be secured in a vestibule. They will then speak with the secretary through a cashier-style window.
“At that time a determination will be made whether to buzz them into the office or buzz them through a second set of double doors to enter the main part of the building. We believe a secured entrance of this nature will be a tremendous upgrade in student safety compared to our current situation.”
King pointed out that the elementary school entrance has similar security issues that must be addressed.
“When a visitor is buzzed through the double doors, he or she can bypass the elementary office and access the main part of the building,” he said. “We are proposing that the district install a new set of double doors to the elementary school, in addition to erecting a barrier wall just past the elementary office. This will allow for a secured entrance into our elementary school.
“Visitors will come through the initial set of double doors, at which point they will be secured in a vestibule. They will then speak with the secretary through a cashier-style window and it will be decided whether or not to buzz them into the office or buzz them through a second set of double doors to enter the main part of the building.”
Another part of the proposed project is the re-coating of approximately 90,000 square feet of the school’s roof with a polyurethane base coating and silicone top coating.
“As the roof has aged, substantial leaking has taken place in recent years,” King said. “While we have been able to contain the leaks and continue school, the roof has reached the point to where it is in great need of repair. The re-coating will solve our leakage issues and provide a solid roof for the district that will be under warranty for the next 15-20 years.”
According to King, an area of concern for students, staff and the community is the high school’s science lab.
“In our current lab, students do not have access to water, electric or gas,” he said. “For years this has greatly hindered the scope of instruction and lab assignments we have been able to provide our students. Additionally, our student tables are from the 1970s and are not designed to have water, gas and electric hookups.
“Our proposal is that the district completely renovate the existing science lab. We would like to provide new work stations for up to 28 students – each with water, gas and electric capabilities. The new STEM lab will also include additional lockable storage, a new exhaust for the chemical storage closet and new flooring and ceiling treatments.”
King noted that the functionality of the elementary library has changed in recent years.
“It’s not only used as an area dedicated to books, but also a place for reading instruction to take place,” he said. “It is not uncommon to see a class of students in the main area of the library with their teachers, while our librarian is instructing students in another area of the library.
“We are proposing that we make changes to the library to better define the space for the purposes for which it is being used. These changes would include a new flooring system and the construction of a ‘knee’ or ‘half-wall’ to better differentiate between the main library area and the teaching area.”
Changes are also being proposed for the high school library.
“Beginning with the 2018-19 school year, each student in grades 8-12 will be provided with a Google Chromebook for educational purposes,” King said. “In 2019-20, students in grades 3-7 will be issued Chromebooks. This one-to-one technology will allow students to have instant access to research databases, educational websites and content programs. The advancement in technology for our students is also going to change the functionality of our high school library.
“We are proposing that we make changes that are conducive to a one-on-one technology learning environment. This will include new student work stations with power access, charging capabilities and USB ports. The upgrades would also include a new flooring system for the library and the installation of new shelving for books and materials. The current shelving is breaking down and comes out from the wall. The new shelving system will go against the wall, saving considerable space.”
The proposed plan also includes renovations to the building that would provide a larger nurse’s office, as well as a space for the high school counselor and a student workroom. In addition, renovations are planned for the band room that will include new acoustical wall treatments to help with sound, new instrument storage systems, window replacement and the installation of a new instrument washing station.
King explained that the cost for the proposed projects is expected to be $1.7 million.
“Final design and specifications will not allow us to state specific costs until late April or early May,” he said. “The architectural design and engineering is scheduled to be completed five weeks after successful passage of the bond issue on April 3.”
Should the bond issue pass, the district will be authorized to issue general obligation bonds in the amount of $1.9 million with no increase of the district’s current debt service tax levy, which is estimated to remain at 74 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Because the anticipated cost is expected to be below $1.9 million, King said the district doesn’t anticipate it will need to issue the additional $200,000 in general obligation bonds.
“Our highest priority as a school district is to make sure that students are learning in a safe and secure environment.” — Supt. Jason King
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or email@example.com