Lack of KPS employee housing worsens; board considers more facility upgrades

Dunn County’s housing crisis is forcing Killdeer Public School to its breaking point.

“We’re unlike other oil schools right now, but I think our day is on the horizon …”

-Killdeer Public School Superintendent Gary Wilz

 

By BRYCE MARTIN
Herald Editor
Posted March 15, 2013

KILLDEER — Dunn County’s housing crisis is forcing Killdeer Public School to its breaking point.

At a special Killdeer Public School Board meeting March 7, Superintendent Gary Wilz discussed the “dire” need for district employee housing, prompting the board to approve a motion to advertise a housing request.

As the Killdeer City Council continues to consider accepting property – specifically designated as a site for affordable housing – from resident Greg Nordsven, KPS is moving in any direction possible to obtain housing. The district offered clear indication they were interested in the Nordsven property, but the land does not yet contain the necessary infrastructure for the district’s needs and would likely not match the school’s timeline.

“We’re certainly going to entertain that if it comes into play,” Wilz said. “But we need to move on housing pretty quick.”

Wilz said employee housing is needed between July 1 and August 1. As a result, the district currently is advertising for parcels of land that would accommodate construction of duplex housing units or cost for an existing apartment complex the district would purchase.

“We’re trying to entertain a lot of different possibilities,” he said.

Out of the district’s 40 teachers, there are 17 that live outside of the KPS district. Half of those are new teachers hired within the last two years. Commutes for the teachers include from locations such as Beulah, Golden Valley and Dickinson.

“They’ve got a pretty good jaunt,” he said.

Teachers making a commute present additional problems, specifically considering the unpredictable North Dakota climate. During the 2010-2011 school year, the massive amount of snow translated into snow days for the students mainly due to teachers unable to travel the distance to work and a lack of substitute teachers.

Contrary to the lack of housing, KPS has about eight positions needing to be filled. The positions include openings for a K-12 counselor, a career counselor, a fulltime substitute teacher, an elementary teacher, and a social studies/English teacher.

“So we’re looking for six to eight new positions in addition to our current housing needs,” Wilz said. “We are in a pickle.”

KPS facility needs additional updates, says school board

Effects of the oil boom on the school district are apparent other than searching for available housing, namely considering the school’s facility.

“We’re seeing what we need for facility upgrades,” Wilz said.

Concern befell the board as to the building’s current structure and if it met educational needs. Wilz and the board recognized the facility’s classroom space issues, as well as concerns regarding the school’s unofficial preschool center.

“As we were looking at this, we said maybe we should go a little bit bigger picture and look at strategic plans that have been done by other districts,” he said.

In discussing the short and long term plans for the district, Wilz distributed survey results, an updated spending prioritization list and a sample strategic plan used by the Williston School District to the board members, a document encompassing a five-year period from 2009 to 2014.

“Let’s see what Williston is doing,” he said. “Not that they’re doing everything right, it’s just they’re definitely an oil country as well and seeing some of the same issues we are.

“We’re unlike other oil schools right now, but I think our day is on the horizon because I see more expansion of the community.”

With expansion of the facility also comes expansion in curriculum, which, in the last few years, has grown. The goal now is to bolster seventh and eighth grade programs, but to mostly maintain, if not develop a few additional curricular offerings, for students.

When more housing is constructed within the district, Wilz said he believes the school also will begin seeing larger enrollment numbers, which remain relatively stable so far.

About 70 new students entered the district during the 2012-2013 school year, but that’s only minimally changed the amount of enrollment considering the amount of students that also leave the district.

The board later agreed by consensus to move the curricular needs discussion to its specified committee and to keep the facilities portion of the prioritization list at the full board level.

Contact Bryce Martin at bmartin@countrymedia.net.


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