New school community group starts move to meet timetable

Killdeer Superintendent Garry Wilz explains the facts about what is in store for the city’s school to a community group which will be making important decisions and playing a crucial role in meeting the needs of an overcrowded school district and the need for a new campus.
Herald photos / Brad Mosher

Nearly 30 members of the local community found out there may be a very large present under the Christmas tree in two years.

But they will have to work very hard for the next six or seven months to get the present.

By Brad Mosher

The Herald

The plan to build a new campus to handle the rapid growth of students in the Killdeer School District moved forward Dec. 20 with a special meeting held in the wrestling room.

Unveiled at the meeting was a timeline which showed the best case scenario which would include a public survey to analyze the public interest in approving a ballot proposal in July.

If approved, the construction could begin after going out for bids and selecting the firm to handle construction.

The construction timetable displayed to the community showed that if successful, the construction would start in August and would be ending by Dec. 28 in 2020, approximately 18 months later.

The meeting, which lasted two hours, showed a sizeable interest from the community in solving the overcrowding problem, according to a visitor from Kraus-Anderson, a company which specializes in school construction projects.

New County Commissioner JoAnn Marsh-Brew (above) and Killdeer Athletic Director Andrew DesRosier (center at right) were among the people at the Dec. 20 meeting.

Ross Wilmes, the director of operations for the Bismarck-based construction company, said that the timetable was pretty realistic. “It is actually up to the people. We don’t know what the project is yet, but if it is a new high school, we expect 16 to 18 months for construction. It depends on the weather and when the project can actually start,” he said.

“When you are moving into a school, you either want to move in for the start of school in the fall or  you want to move in over the holiday break,” he explained.

The company is currently finishing a large project in Richardton where the students will be moving in after Christmas. “We did two additions and demolished the old classroom wing,” Wilmes said.

The company has worked on school construction projects in Alexander, Casselton and in Stanley, they are currently halfway completed in an addition, Wilmes said.

One of the first big hurdles for the drive to create a new school facility will be the survey, according to a representative from a company called School Perceptions who attended the meeting by telephone.

Talking to the group by speakerphone, Sue Peterson said that the survey collects data that can be extremely predictive of the success of a school construction plan.

She explained that the survey needs to have at least 400 respondents to be accurate of the community interest in a project. “In reality, after 400 responses into the system, it will shift very little.”

Normally, the survey would have about an 18 to 20 percent response rate, she added.

According to the timetable shown at the meeting, the survey would begin Jan. 30 and conclude 50 days later on April 9. Once the results of the survey are reported to the school board, the board would have a week to frame the ballot measure and set the dollar amount for the proposed project.

According to the timetable, the referendum campaign would start April 19 and run through the end of June.

Election Day on July 7 will determine the success of the community school project.

According to Tony Sjollander, the success of the project depends on the people in the community. “It is your opportunity to do things right the first time,” he said.

“Eighty-five percent of the referendums that I have worked on have passed,” he added.

The director of project planning and development  for Kraus Anderson then asked the community members attending the meeting if they were willing to put in the effort needed to make the project a success. “Are you willing to work outside of the school year? You all will make it happen.”

If a new school will be built, that means the current school will also need renovation.

According to Killdeer Superintendent Gary Wilz, nothing is “off the table.”

However, he explained to the people at Thursday’s special meeting that he has had a change of heart since the first community meeting in late October.

Originally, he was looking at adding an elementary school. Now, he supports building a new high school, citing the traffic and parking problems at the current campus in the city.

The school district is in a good situation financially, in spite of the state being more of an obstacle, according to Wilz.

But the biggest obstacle is finding ways to adapt for the fast-growing student population, he added.

The growing elementary population has forced  some changes at the higher grade levels, with three secondary classrooms already being used for elementary students.

That pressure will continue next year, the superintendent added.

So far this year, the school has been adding new students every week, something that has not happened before at Kildeer.

At an earlier school board meetin Wilz said the overcrowding is having an effect. “There are classes that have 55 to 60 kids in them,” he explained.

“In many respects, we are beyond capacity here. We feel it. I keep just trying to keep people calmed down. It is just growing pains.

“But just the sheer number of people…” that itself can cause problems and stress, the superintendent added. “The kids see it. The teachers see it. The staff sees it.”

The superintendent is hoping the community will see it as the district moves forward with the plan for new contruction on a timetable.

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