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The school election on an addition to the current 3-12 building is fast approaching. The vote will be held on Tuesday, August 12. This week, I would like to address issues related to safety, fire codes and American with Disabilities Act (ADA) codes in the Central School building. The information is being provided to help qualified voters receive the necessary information they need to make an informed decision on August 12.

Central School was constructed in 1951. Building codes have changed drastically since this time. The Central School has been grandfathered when it comes to fire and ADA codes. Currently, the school is evaluated by inspectors based on the specific codes at the time the building was constructed. One of the safety issues with Central School under today’s codes is the lack of fire escapes. Central School has two fire escapes. One is located on the south side of the building and the second is located on the west side of the building. This creates a dead end corridor on the north side of the building with no fire escape. In addition, the main stairway to the second floor does not meet current fire codes and cannot be counted as a fire escape.

The portable buildings to the west of the main Central School building represent another safety issue. The library, computer lab, music room and kindergarten classrooms are housed in these portable buildings. The pre-kindergarten classroom is across the street from the main building. With doors being locked during the school day, there are times throughout the day when students are coming in and out of the main building. Although we have security cameras for the doors to the main building, there is the possibility of students waiting outside for an extended period of time before the doors to the main building would be opened.

The cafeteria, which is located in the basement level, is also a safety concern. It is very small for the number of students it serves. There is only one small rear exit and one main stairway exit.

The size and configuration of the classrooms is also a safety issue. The recommended size for today’s classroom is 900 square feet. Central School classroom’s are currently 600 square feet. Technology has created another major change in the educational delivery. Each of our classrooms has a SMARTBoard, which has created both space and electrical problems. The classrooms at Central do not have enough electrical outlets to run many of the technologies available to staff.

In addition to safety issues, Central School has ADA concerns. The cafeteria is located in the basement level and, at this time, is not wheelchair accessible. To meet today’s code, an elevator would have to be installed. The bathrooms do not meet current ADA requirements. The stalls are not wheelchair accessible, the doors entering the bathrooms are too narrow, and the sinks cannot be accessed by individuals in wheelchairs.

Again, Central School is grandfathered and evaluated based on the building codes during the time it was built. An individual may ask “Why hasn’t the district made the needed updates to safety and ADA codes?”. When completing any updates through remodeling, a district must be careful on how much remodeling is done. An extensive remodel may force a district to then bring every code to today’s standard. Basically, a district can’t pick and choose which items to update.

In 2013, JLG Architects evaluated the maintenance needs of the district. They estimated maintenance costs for Central School at $2,408,000. This includes implementing safety demands, security demands, code compliances, and deferred maintenance to an aging building. The $2,408,000 may bring items up to code. It would still not fix the size of the classrooms. They would still be approximately 600 square feet. This is far less than the recommended 900 square feet in today’s modern classrooms. This effort also does not address any growth requirements or the current need for additional classrooms.

The election will be held on Tuesday, August 12 in front of the James Holwell Auditorium. Please enter Door 2. The polls will be open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. In order to vote, you must be 18 years of age, a US citizen and a resident of the Bottineau Public School District for 30 days prior to the election. You must show a driver’s license on the day of the election. Absentee ballots are available at the school Monday through Thursday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. An individual is required to show the proper identification when requesting an absentee ballot. An individual may also request a ballot be mailed to them. Any absentee ballot returned through the mail must be postmarked on or before August 11. Absentee ballots may be completed from now until August 11.