School Board Elementary Facility Workshop Summary- 11/28/2017

It has been nearly two months since the school board agreed to not consider Roosevelt Elementary for closure or re-purpose on October 9, 2017.

There have been 3 regular board meetings since that time.

At the October 26th board meeting, the board reviewed three of the proposed boundary changes in the 2016 Elementary Facility Committee recommendations:

Sunrise to Miller - they discussed that the boundary proposed was not a preferred change, as students very close to Sunrise were being moved.

Lincoln to Mhyre  - the board all agreed that this boundary change was not preferred, as the number of students it would move is very small and not presently necessary.

Solheim to Prairie Rose - The board all agreed this boundary change was not preferred, as the number of students it would move is small, and not presently necessary.

The most important discussion from the October 26th meeting was that the board agreed to take their time to consider recommendations, and put off implementation of any boundary changes until the 19/20 school year (one year later than committee recommended). This was agreed upon because the enrollment growth was significantly slower than projected.

At the November 13th meeting, no facilities issues were discussed.

At the November 27th meeting, Ubl Design Group presented their study of the Northridge Building. They recommended about $4.4 million dollars in building improvements, and considered $2.4 million of those improvements to be essential. This is simply to maintain the existing structure and add accessibility, though an expansion of the school by a few classrooms is possible and might decrease certain costs (ex, elevator cost). 

Tonight, November 28th, the Elementary Facility Committee Recommendations were discussed at length, more thoroughly than they have been publicly discussed by the board to date. Scanned here are the discussion points that the administration provided to the board members, on 9 major subjects. 

  1. Sunrise is overcrowded: the board really favored the idea of changing the boundary to send students who live north of 71st Ave and east of Highway 83 to Miller. This is a different boundary change than was proposed by the committee. About 160 students would be relocated. Miller would be able to accommodate those students who are already quite far from their current elementary school, and it would leave some capacity for Sunrise to absorb some of the eastern development that is close to the school. This will be brought to public forum prior to any decision being made, most likely in August/Sept of 2018.
  2. Liberty is overcapacity and growing:  The board still is considering expansion of Grimsrud, even though they will not be consolidating Roosevelt and Highland Acres into it. This expansion may not be as big as the committee proposed, but Grimsrud has the land available to accommodate students. Centennial may also be expanded. The board will request analysis by an architect in order to formally determine the cost of the potential additions to Centennial and Grimsrud. Current Liberty students would be bussed to Grimsrud or Centennial, very much in line with the committee's proposal. This will be brought to public forum prior to any decision being made, most likely in August/Sept of 2018.
  3. Highland Acres is over-capacity: Promontory Point is a growing neighborhood. Highland Acres is currently the school that serves this neighborhood, and that is why the school is over-capacity. Though Highland Acres could be expanded, it cannot absorb all of the potential growth that the Promontory Point neighborhood may develop. The board discussed that Grimsrud or Centennial is a better solution for Promontory. However, without that neighborhood, Highland Acres would have less than 100 students. It was discussed that the "River Road" neighborhood (Between 1804 and the Missouri River) could return to Highland Acres permanently. These neighborhoods historically attended Highland Acres, and only switched to Grimsrud recently. This will be brought to public forum prior to any decision being made, most likely in August/Sept of 2018.
  4. BECEP/Head Start - These programs need 2 additional classrooms presently, and are expected to grow. For now, space will be found in elementary schools that have room throughout the city.
  5. Northridge study - The board now has a complete picture of Northridge's needs, but will determine what actions to take in concert with the rest of the facility planning. There was some discussion of adding just a couple of classrooms in a small addition on the south side of the school. 
  6. Roosevelt - Though Roosevelt has been taken off the table for closure/re-purpose the board briefly discussed the enrollment at the school, and potential to house a BECEP room there. 
  7. Discussion on Centennial -  As noted above, Centennial will be analysed by an architect in order to formally determine the cost of the potential addition to accommodate either the Promontory Point students or the potentially some current Liberty students.
  8. Discussion on Lincoln -  Lincoln is almost overcapacity. If Burleigh county built a road connecting the Lincoln neighborhoods to the Prairie Rose neighborhood, boundaries could be adjusted to relieve the capacity issue. However, that is not currently an option, so the school will be closely monitored for now and the board is hopeful that in future that will be possible.
  9. Discussion on a Teaching/Learning Center- It was discussed that one of the elementary schools could be come an Innovative School. This would be an asset to the teachers of Bismarck for professional development, and an asset to the students of Bismarck Public Schools because they would have better opportunity to experience innovative practices as a result. It may also serve as a draw for students outside the neighborhood to transfer in to the neighborhood schools and increase their enrollment. It wasn't discussed for a particular school, and could potentially even be placed at Hughes. 

That is a summary of the discussion generally, which lasted for nearly 3 hours - so of course it doesn't capture some of the nuance. In general, the board is taking steps to the three major pieces of the committee recommendations - expanding Grimsrud and Centennial and making some equity improvements to Northridge.





We did it!

Roosevelt will not be closed or re-purposed.

At the Bismarck School Board meeting on October 9th, in "Board Response to Presentations," the board discussed and unanimously supported giving Roosevelt the same protection previously given to Highland Acres in July - it will not be considered for closure or re-purpose at this time.

We will continue to work as an alliance with the Bismarck Alliance for Neighborhood Schools to shape the long-term vision of the district as it faces the issues still on the table:

  • Over-capacity and near capacity schools
  • Additional space for BECEP
  • Infrastructure and maintenance needs at existing facilities, particularly at Northridge.

Stay tuned on how to remain engaged. We must help the board address the complex facility needs while protecting and preserving our neighborhood schools.

Verifying the Cost Efficiency Claims

We’ve all heard repeatedly that the Elementary Facility Committee "was influenced by the cost efficiency which happens with an elementary school of at least four sections in each grade.”

The cost efficiency claims have been publicly referenced in the presentation and widely shared in the press. Here is the relevant slide from the committee recommendations:

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These cost efficiency claims don't line up with studies of cost efficiency that the Bismarck Alliance for Neighborhood Schools was able to find of other districts in the nation. We have been very curious why Bismarck's cost savings would be so much greater than other districts. 

Beginning in June, our Alliance has been asking the BPS administration to "show their work," just as any math teacher would do. Assuming these cost per student numbers were generated based on actual costs and actual enrollment in Bismarck Public Schools, we asked for the data and the calculations supporting the numbers above.

Our Alliance did receive information in late August, but when we started to "dig in" to understand the cost savings calculations, we had some questions. Our questions revealed that there was an error in the spreadsheet they had provided. We were asked to disregard the information.

We presented our concerns to the board at the September 25th meeting. If you would like to watch it - our presentation appears about 42 minutes into the meeting.

For now, after months of asking, we still don't have the data and calculation that generated the cost per student that so strongly influenced the committee. Why has this data been so difficult to see? Help us get the data by contacting the board. Encourage them to request the information from the administration,

If you choose to contact the board, you might also share why you value neighborhood schools, and ask them to take closure or repurposing of Roosevelt formally off the table. Leaving Roosevelt in limbo is not fair to the children, teachers, staff, and neighborhood. The uncertainty is damaging, our school is vital to the culture and well-being of our neighborhood, and the cost savings of repurposing the school are questionable. 

School Board to Provide Timeline.

The Bismarck School Board has agreed to provide a timeline for when they will be responding to the Elementary Facility Committee's recommendations.

The timeline will be provided at the meeting happening Monday, September 25th.

When: 5:15PM

Where: Tom Baker Meeting Room of the City/County Building. 221 N Fifth Bismarck.

Why is it important to attend?

Ann Richardson will be speaking on behalf of the Alliance. Anyone is welcome to speak to the board and share concerns. However, you do not need to speak - your presence alone as a concerned citizen engaged in the issue is enough to help us in our mission to save neighborhood schools.

See you there!