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New school district committee to focus on facilities

The Bemidji School District is creating a new committee to plan for the future of its facilities.

The Long Range Facility Planning Committee will help the school district develop a unifying vision or long-term plan for facility and space needs as part of the school district's goal of being an efficient and effective operation.

"We have a lot of facility issues and opportunities in Bemidji Area Schools," Superintendent Jim Hess said.

Hess said the school district needs to take a 360-degree look at its facilities.

"There will be a lot of study and discussion," he said. "And we'll come up with a plan that will take us far into the future."

During the past four years, the school district has made several decisions affecting its facilities and grounds, including refinancing long-term debt, selling the former Bemidji High School building and grounds to the Bemidji State University Foundation, acquiring the Guthrie School Forest in Hubbard County and redesigning the bus loop at Northern Elementary School.

Hess said the committee will focus on the following topics:

E Review student enrollment trends and area demographics

E Review current space and facility utilization and identify future needs

E Determine the role of Deer Lake Elementary School, which is currently used by the school district for storage, and the former Community Education building

E Consider warehouse, transportation, food service and maintenance needs

E Find long-term solutions for the Bemidji Youth Learning and Working program and Living Skills program and their unique population needs

E Identify a long-term home for Bemidji High School's boys and girls hockey programs and the future role for Nymore Arena

E Determine the next steps for facility safety at Bemidji Middle School

E Determine other facility needs and possible solutions

"There are a lot of isolated, but all related, issues," Hess said. "It will all enter the mix."

The former Community Education building, for example, has been empty since the BYLaW program moved from it to the former Riverside School site during the summer.

"We've had it appraised," Hess said.

He said it would probably be prudent sell the building, but that is something the committee will need to consider.

Meanwhile, Hess the school district is leasing space at the site of the former Riverside School, which operated on the Gilfillian Center campus, to house the ByLaW program. He said the program's new home gives students access to a shop area, something they didn't have at the former Community Education building.

Hess said he expects the new committee will make recommendations to the Bemidji School Board next fall. The committee will then disband.

The committee will likely meet one or two evenings each month, Hess added.

Any resident of the school district interested in being considered for membership on the districtwide committee should indicate their willingness through a brief letter of interest or self-nomination to Hess at Bemidji Area Schools, 3300 Gillett Drive N.W., Bemidji, MN, 56601, or