Moorhead High School has served the community well for generations. But even buildings have a productive lifespan, and the high school, built in the late 1960s, is ready for retirement.
The list of the school’s shortcomings is long and varied. Overcrowding has forced some classrooms to be located in the basement, where there are no windows and where the sewer is prone to backing up.
The building, with a dozen locations with stairs to negotiate floor-level changes, is not at all friendly to students with disabilities or difficulty getting around. The outdated heating, air-conditioning and ventilation system operates at 50-percent efficiency.
Overcrowding also has required converting two locker bays into classrooms. Some teachers use carts to migrate between classrooms.
We could go on, but the picture should be abundantly clear: Moorhead voters really have no alternative than to approve the proposed $110 million bond issue for a new high school on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Enrollment growth means overcrowding at the high school is going to get much worse if something isn’t done. The high school was designed to accommodate 1,800 students, inadequate to handle the projected 2,200 to 2,400 students by 2023.
With 1,875 students, the high school already is too small.
There’s simply no question the high school is too small and outdated. Fortunately, the $110 million plan to expand and renovate the school and build a separate career academy is sound and makes good use of taxpayer dollars.
A community task force that guided the plan for a new high school quickly decided that a second high school campus was a nonstarter. So the focus became how to transform the current building.
The new building will provide state-of-the-art labs and it will support students studying music, art, physical education and electives.
The plan also will create a career academy, providing instruction for 300 to 700 students, offering opportunities to explore a wide range of career paths, including health sciences and information technology as well as skilled trades — a project that has ardent support from employers and businesses.
The career academy, to be built at the former Sam’s Club, is slated to open in 2021, while the new high school, to be built on parking areas adjacent to the school, will be complete by 2024.
We agree with Tamara Uselman, assistant superintendent, who says: “Our kids deserve better. It’s time.”
The cost for making this essential education investment in Moorhead’s future will be modest. The owner of a $200,000 home, for example, will pay $8 per month. The property-tax cost has been restrained by community growth, which has expanded the tax base.
The cost to owners of agricultural land will be cushioned by an increasing tax credit from the state, which is 50 percent for taxes owed in 2020, rising in steps to 70 percent in 2023 and later years.
Superintendent Brandon Lunak is justified in saying school officials haven’t considered a “Plan B” alternative to the $110 million bond issue for a new high school and career academy. That’s because there really is no other viable option.
Moorhead Area Public Schools voters should give the proposal a big thumbs up in the Nov. 5 election.