It has been many years since Hancock Public school enrollment has topped 300, but within a few years the district could once again see that milestone. Projected numbers for the next five years show that by the first day of school in 2013, we will be at or above 300 students.
The news is good but brings with it some challenges. Superintendent Jerry Martinson and Principal Tim Pahl explained that the enrollment increases will probably be in elementary classes and sin some cases, require two sections of these grades. They estimate that in 2013 the pre-school class will be large enough for two sections. This years kindergarten class is also large enough to require two sections. As these two classes advance through the grades, additional classrooms and teachers will be needed.
In addition to the need for these two classrooms, Martinson told the board at their meeting on Monday nights, that there is a growing need for special education instruction at the school. In fact, the numbers are at a point where he may need to add a part-time instructor for special ed yet this year. Additional classroom space will be needed for this teacher and students.
With all the facts put in place, the district will be faced with the need to find two additional classrooms by next fall and a third the year after. This brought on further discussion about levy and bond issues. There is also the possibility of even more construction needed in 2018 if the district approves the construction of a new high school. A current bond issue will expire at that time and the large elementary classes will be advances into high school.
Martinson has contacted an engineering firm to evaluate the 1920 high school building and also give recommendations about it and the elementary classroom situation. If the high school building is found to be structurally sound, the board would feel better about spending money on remodeling some areas for additional classrooms. One area suggested was the shop space.
It all boils down to some big decisions for the voters in the Hancock School District this fall. The board will probably be asking voters to renew an $800 per pupil levy that will expire next year and probably tie with it the renewal of a $350 per pupil levy that expires in three years. Renewing these two levies would not have an impact on taxes but would also not raise additional funds for remodeling or construction.
Therefore, the board may also need to ask voters to approve a bond to cover the cost of the needed space.
"Timing could be key," explained Martinson. "If we are going to keep the current high school building, we may need to go deeper into the construction than just three rooms."
The board members decided to set up a committee including board members Barry Nelson and Randy Reese and administrators Martinson and Pahl. They will meet and look over all the options bringing recommendations back to the board for approval.
The timeline is closing in as construction plans must be filed with the Department of Education before asking for voter approval and paperwork must be filed 60-90 days before the November elections. The board will need to make some key decisions before summer.
In a related matter, the board members approved spending $20,000 on improvements throughout the school in order to freshen things up before the All-School Reunion this summer. Many of these things include painting, tile replacement in some hallways, light fixtures, repairing brick on the exterior, light fixtures and a new mat in the gym. The painting in the gym will be one of the larger projects along with the tile replacement. The board also discussed several future repair needs but tabled most of these until decisions are made about construction.