Griggs County Central

Story written by Lisa Saxberg published in the 1/6/2023  edition of the Griggs County Courier

Residents who live in the Griggs County Central School District are encouraged to go vote Jan. 18, at the school. Currently, GCC has a debt limit of 5%, but according to Superintendent Derek Simonsen, inflationary costs for building projects have increased to the point where the district is asking the public to vote on raising the debt limit to 10%. He said this would provide the district with additional room to consider future projects.

“Griggs County Central School District has a growing enrollment K-12 and has added a new preschool program this school year,” said Simonsen. “The district has also added a new Career Pathway Program in the high school partnering with local businesses and organizations to improve workforce readiness for students and workforce options for local employers. The addition of new programs, grade levels, and the growth of the community brought to light the need for future planning. Over the last couple of years, GCC has been going through a strategic planning process and took steps to look at future building plans based on the needs of students, school families, and the community.”

Last spring, GCC hired architects and construction managers to do a full evaluation of district facilities and to help with future planning as part of their strategic plan. Simonsen said that following that formal evaluation of the facilities, GCC assembled a community committee made up of various stakeholders in the area that have connections directly with the school and some that have no connection with the school. The purpose of the community committee was to help determine the future needs of the school as it relates to the community.

“The committee has been meeting since early August, and discussions have been centered around potential building updates, remodels, and/or addition options to meet the needs of the students and the community moving forward,” he said. “The eventual goal is to provide a potential path forward to the community but, a limiting factor is the current debt limit for the school district to consider options. We are asking the public to vote on raising the debt limit to 10%.”

Simonsen wanted to be clear that no taxes are raised through this vote on the debt limit. It will simply allow the district the ability to consider projects that would go past the 5% debt limit. Any potential projects would eventually have to go to the public for a separate vote that would need 60% approval to go through.

The superintendent went on to explain that in the past, many other schools have already voted to move their debt limit from 5% to 10%. He said that a majority of the school districts considering or currently constructing building projects have their debt limits approved at 10%.

“There are no other options provided by Century Code other than the standard 5% debt limit being voted on and increasing it to 10%,” he said. “Even if a school district only requires 6% for a building project, the only option they have is to increase it to 10%. Given the inflationary costs of building maintenance, remodeling, and construction, it is becoming more and more necessary for districts to do this to open up options for projects and capital maintenance.”

Simonsen said that at this time, there are no set plans, drawings, or details in place. This vote is a process to open up more options for the district by increasing the debt limit to create plans that fit the district and community needs.

“GCC is very limited with space right now due to the increase of enrollment, the addition of programs/grade levels, and the changes in education over the last 10-15 years,” he said. “Current students have more needs, and the layout of a traditional school setting from 20+ years ago does not work as well with all of the individual and small group needs. Along with that, GCC is on the edge of grade level splits in the elementary, and a continual increase in enrollment could demand two classrooms per grade level in the future. On the high school end of the building, there are no more lockers for students, and there are additional students enrolling in the district after Christmas break. Oftentimes a rural district would see a decrease in enrollment from fall to spring, but GCC will see an increase this year, providing another indication of growing enrollment and growing community. Those factors led to the district considering options for building growth including remodeling of current facilities and potential additions to the existing structure.”

Simonsen said that similar to other votes at the school like school board elections, if you live in the school district, you can vote. If you commute from further outside the school district boundaries, then you cannot. The polls will be open at the school on Wednesday, Jan. 18, from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.