BCN school district weighs its optionsBarnes County North officials are starting planning for the years beyond 2012, according to Doug Jacobson, superintendent of the school. The school board and administration are looking at three options for the future, including the possibility of combining its facilities into one new building.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
Barnes County North officials are starting planning for the years beyond 2012, according to Doug Jacobson, superintendent of the school. The school board and administration are looking at three options for the future, including the possibility of combining its facilities into one new building.
“We’re very early in the process of determining what direction to head,” he said. “We’re in the middle of the third of a five-year plan that went in place when Spiritwood was absorbed into the district. We’re locked into this situation for a couple more years but we’re looking to the future.”
Barnes County North operates three schools: a pre-kindergarten through sixth grade at Spiritwood with 17 students; pre-kindergarten through high school at Wimbledon with about 160 students, and a pre-kindergarten through high school at Barnes County North, located just north of Rogers, with about 150 students. The current operational plan has been in place since the start of the 2007 school year.
Keeping the current structure in place is one option the school board will consider.
“They are all very viable schools,” Jacobson said. “But there is a cost to staying the way you are. There is routine maintenance of buildings that are showing their age. There is the ongoing cost of staffing three sites and there are added transportation costs for extracurricular activities.”
Jacobson said the school building at Wimbledon dates from 1919 with more recent additions. The Spiritwood School also dates from the early 1900s with an addition in the 1990s. The entire school at Barnes County North was constructed in 1963.
A second option would include maintaining all three school sites but eliminate classes for grades 7-12 at one location. The district would then operate pre-kindergarten through sixth grade at all sites and grades 7-12 at just one location.
Jacobson said this plan kept younger schoolchildren closer to their homes, limiting the time they spend on the school bus, but offered added efficiency by eliminating some redundant classes in grades 7-12.
A third option under study constructs one school for the entire district.
“Obviously being in one site has efficiencies,” Jacobson said. “The cost savings of one site are substantial but obviously you have to have a place to go.”
Jacobson estimates the cost savings at more than $1 million per year with $870,000 of those savings coming from reductions in staff.
And where that place would be located is not part of the current discussion.
“The site of any school is off the table,” he said. “We need to define the needs and the costs of doing something before we talk about where and how.”
But even these preliminary discussions are prompting concern in the communities.
“I think the thought of loosing the school is a fear for any small town,” said Laurie Carlson, president of the school board. “There are people who don’t want change but we are holding an open discussion and the people will have their say.”
The school board for Barnes County North is made up of three members from each of the three former school districts. Carlson said the group has worked well together in starting to formulate a plan for the districts future.
“It’s about looking to the future,” she said. “We have a five-year plan we’re operating under now but what happens after that?”
Jacobson said the next step to the process involves a study being conducted by JLG Architects. The study will look at the costs of each of the options along with other benefits or potential problems and is expected to be released this June.
“We’ll have more public meetings after the study is released,” he said. “The board will then decide what the next step is and how we proceed. If and when there is a vote on the issue we want to make sure the patrons can make an informed decision.”
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at email@example.com