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Looking at schools: Elementary schools assessment to begin

The Jamestown Public School District’s five elementary schools will undergo an engineering study, as projected enrollment numbers show nearly half of the district’s student population will be in kindergarten through grade five for the 2014-15 school year.

The facilities assessment will be conducted by a team of four engineers from DLR Group, an architecture firm with offices in 19 U.S. cities including Minneapolis. The firm specializes in education, corporate, correctional, sports and entertainment facilities.

JPS Superintendent Rob Lech said the study would take four days, and there was no firm date when the report would be made available to the Jamesetown Public School Board, but he expects it “in the very near future.”

“Obviously first we’re going to communicate (to the public) what those assessments say and what it means, and then start the visioning process and communicating internally and externally with where we see our system going,” Lech said. “We would have a number of different options but what they are, what’s the most reasonable, what’s the most cost effective —we would go down that road.”

In a document sent out to school officials earlier this month, the district is said to expect 2,112 total students in grades K-12 with 971 in grades K-5 when classes resume on Aug. 25. Of the elementary students, 255 will be attending Gussner, 239 will be at Lincoln, 126 will go to Louis L’Amour, 236 will take classes at Roosevelt, and Washington will have 115 students.

 “We’re looking at class sizes anywhere from the 18 to 22 mark; that’s certainly within standards, probably a little bit higher than what we would find to be ideal, but certainly reasonable,” Lech said. “... We do have limitations in some of our buildings regarding size, classroom numbers, so we’re kind of hamstrung by that, but that’s something we’re hoping to look at for our facilities assessment and find out where we’re going.”

Lech said the burgeoning elementary student population is becoming an issue with other school districts as the state enjoys a continuing economic boom which lures younger families to North Dakota.

“It’s a trend that you’re seeing across North Dakota; it isn’t just centered in Jamestown,” he said. “If it’s a trend we continue to see it’s one of the reasons we might want to look at some kind of demography study, but I think that’s the trend that we are seeing, and it will likely continue: growth first in that K through (grade) five range and then that spilling over into the six through eighth and ninth through 12th (grades).”

Lech said the DLR Group’s assessment and recommendations could range from doing nothing to restructuring, reorganizing, building onto one or more of the buildings or even recommend constructing a new building.

“We just don’t know at this point,” he said. “I don’t foresee building a new building but again, we’ll look at whatever options they find to be the most reasonable.”

Sun reporter David Luessen can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at