Board hears preliminary facilities task force recommendation
January 6, 2015
The latest recommendations from the Master Facilities Plan Task Force include adding a fifth- and sixth-grade addition to Horizon Middle School and building a new kindergarten through fourth-grade elementary school by 2018.
John Pfluger with Cuningham Group presented the current draft of the plan to the Moorhead School Board at a special meeting Jan. 5 with the goal of reviewing progress, gathering feedback and answering questions.
The task force has been working since September to develop a fiscally responsible plan to address the district’s significant need for student capacity, along with safety and 21st century learning needs.
“We want our students to be able to learn and be safe in educational environments designed for today’s instructional needs,” said Superintendent Lynne Kovash.
In November, the School Board heard projections for student enrollment to increase an average 3 percent each year for the next five years. Enrollment is projected to break 6,000 students next fall. Middle school enrollment is 1,315 and is projected to reach 1,870 by 2024-25, while elementary enrollment is 2,851 this year and is projected to increase about 500 students by then. Further demographics study will be done this spring. Overcrowded conditions, especially at the elementary schools, have required a creative use of space in recent years.
As a short-term solution, the district added space to Robert Asp and Probstfield Elementary this year and will add on to S.G. Reinertsen Elementary next year. The cost of these additions was offset by the refinancing of existing long-term debt.
For a long-term solution, Cuningham Group has been leading the collaborative process to develop a comprehensive facilities master plan to guide facilities planning and improvements for the next 10 years. The final facilities master plan is scheduled to be presented to the School Board on Feb. 9, and the board will be asked to take action at the Feb. 23 meeting.
The first phase of the recommendation is to invest $78 million in building the needed grades 5-6 middle school addition for 1,200 students and a new grades K-4 elementary school for 750 students to be open by 2018. This will create a K-4, 5-8 and 9-12 grade configuration to minimize transitions for students. This phase also renovates the current elementary schools to improve safety and restore flexible learning spaces that have been eliminated during the space crunch.
Anne Moyano, principal at S.G. Reinertsen Elementary, explained various uses the flexible learning spaces at Reinertsen had served before they were converted to classrooms as the result of increasing enrollment.
The second phase of the recommendation is to either build a new high school for 2,250 students for approximately $109 million or to build an addition to Moorhead High School for $59 million. More space will be needed by 2021 or 2022 so this decision will need to be made in the next two years, Pfluger said. Grades 9-12 enrollment is currently 1,725 and is projected to reach about 2,500 by 2024-25.
In December, when an earlier version of the facilities plan was discussed with the board, board member Matt Valan reminded the board, task force members and audience of the long-time support for education in the community.
“This community has always invested in education,” Valan said on Dec. 15. “Between 1949 to 1958 our community invested in eight schools. Through all those years courage trumped fears. Those schools served us well. … Once again citizens are called to embrace this wonderful challenge. Will we have the courage and vision to meet the educational needs of our children? Now is the time to embrace the future.”
Brian Cole, task force member and orchestra teacher at Horizon Middle School, echoed those comments. “I’m proud to live in a community that values education,” he said.