Future needs: School Board hears options for growthWith years to go before any issue needs to be decided, the Jamestown Public School Board heard options for addressing the anticipated growth that’s expected to come to Jamestown over the next seven years. JPS Superintendent Bob Toso initiated a discussion at Monday’s meeting to get the board thinking about what it can do regarding the anticipated growth at Spiritwood Energy Park.
By: By Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
With years to go before any issue needs to be decided, the Jamestown Public School Board heard options for addressing the anticipated growth that’s expected to come to Jamestown over the next seven years.
JPS Superintendent Bob Toso initiated a discussion at Monday’s meeting to get the board thinking about what it can do regarding the anticipated growth at Spiritwood Energy Park.
Toso estimated the district could see 600 additional students, based on the information from a housing study conducted by the South Central Dakota Regional Council and Maxfield Consultants, that the area will need roughly 1,200 new homes by 2020.
“The board has to be thinking, over the next probably a year, what do we want our elementary schools to look like by the year 2020 and beyond?” he said.
To keep class sizes where they are at now, the district will need to add 10 sections at the elementary level.
With the current way Jamestown is poised to grow, the population would add students to Gussner or Louis L’Amour elementary schools.
Toso said that could be done in numerous ways, including shipping students to Washington, the only school with room, closing Washington and building additions to Gussner or Louis L’Amour or a combination of the two plans.
“I see Jamestown undergoing some real significant growth in the next five to six years, and if you’re not out in front of it you’re going to have some real issues and some real problems,” Toso said.
One possible solution would be to realign schools to teach a specific grade level in each building. One school could house all the kindergarten and first grade students and so on throughout the district.
“If you want to make Washington a more efficient building for learning what’s it going to cost? And what’s it going to cost to put additions on? And if we close Washington is it time to open grade level schools?” Toso asked.
In 2017, approximately 22 property tax mills will be coming off what the district levies after the high school is paid off. Toso said a possibility to fund these projects could be using some of those mills — if voters approve.
“People are oftentimes receptive to continuing a tax, much more receptive to continuing a tax rather than adding a new one,” he said. “So that’s something you’re going to have to talk about.”
Roy Musland, School Board president, said he wanted to see more detailed data on what needs will be coming to Jamestown.
“I think you have to get the best information you possibly can,” Musland said.
Toso said it’s difficult to gauge where the growth will occur in Jamestown before it gets here. The worst-case scenario would be adding a $2 million addition to Gussner and then not having the number of students in the area to utilize the addition.
Also, the School Board agreed to pay $5,000 to the Two Rivers Activity Center committee if other groups contribute to fund the next stage in development of the proposed building,
TRAC has been a work in progress for six years and would be a building in northeast Jamestown to be used by the community for recreational purposes, complete with athletic facilities.
The vote was 5-3 with board member Greg Allen absent. Musland and other board members Gail Martin, Diane Hanson, Heidi Larson and Tanya Ostlie were in favor. Board members Shelly Jystad, Roger Haut and Terry Andersen were opposed.
“I do have some concerns about giving the money and I’m obviously on this committee and I’m all for the project moving forward, but my concern is how many times they’re going to come back and ask for more,” Ostlie said. “… At some point somebody else needs to step up in the community and start helping out with this if it’s going to roll.”
A total of $15,000 given by the five groups involved would be used for facility design, programming, finance, fundraising/sponsorship and public relations work with the American City Bureau.
The School Board also unanimously approved a one-time $2,500 donation to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program, which is set to start here in May.
The program will rely on donations and give one book a month to students age 0-5, who are signed up with the intent of having parents read to them at home.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org