May 15, 2014

Looking Forward: School district eyes expansion

By Jerry W. Kram

New Town Public Schools haven’t grown like other schools around the Bakken. Part the reason is that New Town had a housing shortage that predates the oil boom and has only gotten worse, said School Superintendent Marc Bluestone. However, that could change in the next few years and the school district needs to be ready for it.

"There are at least 90 new units that are going to be built this summer," Bluestone said. "Many of those homes are going to go to families with children. We could see a lot of new kids in the future."

Bluestone laid out this future at a sparsely attended public planning meeting in the school cafeteria on Tuesday evening. North Dakota requires all schools to develop three and five year plans every other year and to share those plans with the public. The plans are based on the demographic and funding changes the schools are likely to face over the next few years.

The school district has been adding new buildings the last few years, funded by lease and royalty payments that the school receives for oil and gas drilling under Lake Sakakawea. These payments, amounting in the millions of dollars per year, have been devoted to capitol projects including a new high school building and gymnasium. The district plans to start work on a new vocational education building in the fall.

"With all our new construction, the high school and middle school are in good shape to handle an influx of new students," Bluestone said. "The elementary school, not so much."


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