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Mapleton to vote again on school expansion

As student numbers balloon in Mapleton's elementary school, a second bond issue vote this year is slated for Tuesday, June 14.

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Mapleton School District residents will vote on a bond issue to expand the elementary school on Tuesday, June 14, at City Hall.
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MAPLETON, N.D. — Mapleton School District residents will vote for the second time this year on a proposal to expand the town's elementary school.

The bond issue election will be Tuesday, June 14, the same day as local and state primary elections, except Mapleton residents will have to vote separately on the bond issue and for school board members at City Hall as officials published notices for a vote there before they knew the town would not have one of Cass County's polling sites.

The vote will be for $5.3 million to add a new wing onto the elementary school, which is for grades K-6.

The project would involve 10 new classrooms, expanding the school's kitchen and common area, redoing the office area as well as remodeling two classrooms and adding bathrooms.

"It's not set in stone," said School Board President Josh Radcliffe, who's seeking re-election to the board, about the final plans.

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But he knows one thing, as the town continues to grow as a bedroom community to the Fargo and West Fargo area, they will need more space for students.

"The town has grown so quickly," he said. "We never thought we'd be here that fast. We're simply running out of space."

The 5-year-old current school building, which replaced an outdated structure that wasn't up to code, has seen its student population grow from 168 students three years ago to 204 this past year.

Projections estimate the school could hit almost 240 students in another three years. Radcliffe said it would likely take about two years to get the project completed and the school would already be approaching its capacity at that point without the new addition.

An earlier bond vote in January, which failed by about 12 percentage points to reach the 60% supermajority needed, would have added middle school space to the district's operation, too.

Although this bond vote is for the same amount, Radcliffe said it would position the district to be in good shape to handle growth for three to five years.

Without it, he said there would be larger class sizes, less personalized instruction and the need for possible portable classrooms that could cost from $80,000 to $200,000.

He said $5.3 million is all the district can seek under North Dakota law according to the district's assessed value.

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Radcliffe said they have held four meetings on the bond issue and he believes the reaction has been more positive this time as they explained the "why" better.

He said older residents without children in school have had more questions.

One of those residents, retiree John Mittleider, told The Forum he's opposed to the project especially at this time with inflation also affecting his family's pocketbook.

Among his objections are that the school's operational costs would increase with the added space, which he says would add to property tax bills.

Mittleider also doubts the need for 10 more classrooms as he questions the projections for student growth.

Radcliffe, who said he believes there was some misinformation out there before the January vote, said for a $300,000 home in Mapleton the extra taxes if the bond passes would be $33 a month or about $400 a year for 20 years.

For an acre of farmland with an average full value of $1,278 per acre and a taxable valuation of $63.90 per acre, the extra cost would be $1.89 per acre per year.

Mittleider, on a fixed income, said his extra property tax bill would be too much as he continues to see it "go up and up and up every year."

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The school board president, though, said he believes that the cost and taxes will also only go up higher in the years ahead if the bond is not approved as something will have to be done.

Radcliffe said adding a middle school, which many parents would like to see with seventh and eighth grade sections, is still in the long-range plan. But the new addition would position the district to more easily realize that plan in the long-term, he said.

Currently, most Mapleton elementary students transition to Central Cass in Casselton for the remainder of their education.

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