Elementary structure public forums set

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal
File Photo
Two special meetings of the Devils Lake School Board will be held and open to the public at Minnie H Elementary Nov. 6 and Nov. 13. The meetings are regarding the possible formation of a kindergarten center at the current Minnie H Elementary School facility.

By Harry Lipsiea

It's an exciting time at Devils Lake Public Schools, Scott Privratsky points out. The district's superintendent of schools thinks that timing is right to discuss restructuring the current elementary school system.

At September's regular school board meeting, Privratsky presented an idea to repurpose Minnie H Elementary School into a kindergarten center for the entire district. After discussing the possibility of the project at the September and October board meetings, school officials felt it was important to hold a series of informational meetings open to the public to present the idea.

"The main purpose for the meeting is to provide the public an opportunity to hear about what we have talked about at the last three school board meetings," Privratsky stated. "At the event, we will highlight the reasons that the kindergarten center is being looked at while also pointing out the challenges that could go along with the restructuring."

With that in mind, two public forums will be held, regarding the proposed kindergarten center, Thursday, Nov. 6 and Nov. 13 starting at 7 p.m. in the Minnie H Elementary School gymnasium. The special meetings of the Devils Lake school board, including a presentation of the proposal, will also include a time for feedback from the public.

Balance

The possible restructuring of the elementary school system has been discussed for some time. By utilizing the facilities of the current Minnie H facility as a kindergarten center, Devils Lake Public Schools could help provide balance in the district, Privratsky commented.

Currently Minnie H is a much smaller school enrollment-wise than Devils Lake's other elementary schools Prairie View and Sweetwater. There is, however, a higher rate of poverty and special education population at Minnie H.

"There is always been a stigma about Minnie H School. Nothing negative against the families, students and staff here. It is a wonderful school," the superintendent pointed out. "I think we can more realistically balance our school's population by re-districting our elementary schools."

Officials say that one of the the biggest positives of the current proposal is educational value in having one site for all kindergarten students in the district.

"I think it's tremendously exciting to think of the educational environment from all the kindergarten sections in one facility," he added. "There is also a major benefit from having the kindergarten instructors in the same school. I think the potential for collaboration is fantastic."

While Privratsky feels like the formation of the kindergarten center would be a positive move for Devils Lake Public Schools, he is also quick to point out that there would be plenty of work to make it happen if the project does go forward. There are several potential challenges that could come along with the elementary system's restructuring.

Among potential challenges is the transition to a new school after completion of kindergarten. The school has also heard concerns regarding transportation issues that could come from the decision. It is important to hear feedback from the public, Privratsky stated.

"I want everyone to know that we are listening to any concerns that may be out there," he stated. "We have heard a comment or two here and there about a potential challenge, but as a whole there has been overwhelming public support for the kindergarten center so far."

The public is encouraged to attend the meeting and voice their opinion on the potential restructuring as well as visit the facilities at Minnie H.

If the restructuring would take place for the 2015-16 school year, a decision would need to be made by the Devils Lake school board by January so the district's lines and bus routes could be set for next August.

"We could have these public forums and that could be it. No other action could be taken, it's being taken one step at a time right now," Privratsky stated. "I just encourage the to attend and learn more about the idea."