SAUK RAPIDS - A plan for a new elementary school could be coming to the Sauk Rapids-Rice school district in the near future.

A community task force made of 75 to 100 people is likely to recommend the Sauk Rapids-Rice School District build a new elementary school when they present to the board in June.

Superintendent Dan Bittman says two of the district's elementary schools are at or near capacity.

"We had between 10 to 12 percent increases in growth over the last 10-13 years and the state demographer said that our enrollment is expected to increase by as much as 17.3 percent."

The task force is now weighing six options:

  1. Create a new early childhood center for pre-K and kindergarten (Cost: $32.5 million).
  2. Build a new elementary, use Pleasantview and Mississippi Heights for K-5, Rice Elementary would remain pre K-5 (Cost 32.9 million).
  3. Replace Pleasantview and build a new K-5 elementary (Cost: $61 million).
  4. Create a fourth elementary and include a wing for early childhood/preschool (Cost: $45.1 million).
  5. Create a fourth elementary that would be larger than option #2 (Cost: $40.9 million).
  6. Create a new middle school for 1,120 students. Use the current middle school as an elementary building (Cost: $67.4 million).

Bittman says the task force is leaning towards a new elementary building, instead of adding to the current schools, or option #6.

"A lot of the recommendations are based around elementary space. One of the things the community group has said loud and clear is that they're not interested in our elementary schools getting any larger."

The space crunches are being seen at the elementary level. Open enrollment is also contributing, but it generates $5 million annually for the district. According to the task force, even if the district were to no longer accept open enrollment, additional classroom space would still be needed.

With a recommendation from the group likely in June, Bittman says the district would then spend much of the next school year working with the community for input. If the board decides on a referendum, it would take place in the spring or November 2017 at the earliest.

"Ultimately if there is a recommendation for building or doing something significant. We'll be sure to work with the community throughout the year," Bittman says.