Belfield to consider constructing new school

Courtesy of The Dickinson Press, by Kayla Henson


By the end of next week, Belfield Public School’s administration will mail a packet of information and a survey to residents in their district and in Billings County, where some of the school’s students live, to gauge community support for a project. The oldest of the four buildings that make up Belfield Public School is over 80 years old, and the district as a whole is at capacity. The district has hired a company to complete a study to determine the feasibility of building a new facility.

The district last received an estimate for a new school about four years ago — $30 million, said Superintendent Wade Northrop.
Given that the district is so small, it will rely heavily on fundraising to afford a new building. Northrop said the district won’t try to raise it all in one year, but rather over a period of at least three years. The packet of information includes a rough layout of what a new school might look like and lists the problems with the current buildings.

The current school is made of four buildings, the first of which was constructed in 1934. The additional buildings were added in 1957, 1977 and 1978, respectively, making the newest part of the school 40 years old. Due to its age, the school is showing “substantial wear.” Its foundation is deteriorating. It is not energy efficient. It has limited handicap accessibility and insufficient parking. The high water table continuously causes damage. The district hired a company to complete assessments of the buildings on everything from the foundation to the roof, Northrop said.

“They’re gonna give us an idea of some of the things that we should look at replacing,” he said. “They’ll have those quotes for us and that information for us probably about the same time we get our surveys back.” They’d like to take the survey results into consideration when determining which projects to pursue, but regardless of the outcome of the surveys, the school needs work.
“We still have to maintain the buildings we have,” Northrop said. “We’ll be looking at some updates on some areas inside the building here.”

The school, like many in the surrounding area, is also facing capacity issues. In a letter to the community, Northrop wrote, “We have seen an increase in enrollment since 2013 and believe it will continue to increase due to consistent oil and gas exploration/production and the apparent construction of the Davis Refinery, just west of Belfield.”

There is no room for additional buildings on the school’s existing plot of land without encroaching on the playground. Belfield Public School’s pre-school classes are being held at the former St. Bernard’s Parish Center, owned by St. Bernard’s Catholic Church, where the school rents a couple classrooms. If the new school is funded, it will be built on 30 acres of land the district already owns, located along Highway 10 about a half mile west of the current school.

The new building would offer community members a public meeting facility, gym/fitness center and media center. The community could use the school for adult community education and access a possible auditorium for town hall meetings.


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