Bennington school board approves land purchase, calls for $153M bond

The move followed surveys, phone calls, and public hearings.
One month ago Bennington Public Schools thought they had a location for a second high school.
Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 11:07 PM CDT
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BENNINGTON, Neb. (WOWT) - Earlier this month, Bennington Public Schools thought they had a location for a second high school in the fast-growing district, but within days public outcry about that location adjacent to a closed landfill led to a change of plans.

Fortunately for the district, an alternate site appears to be more acceptable to the public and the board voted unanimously to purchase the 76-acre location at the northeast corner of 180th Street and Military Road at a special meeting Monday.

“This is a big decision for our community, and we’ve understood that,” board president Mark Byars said. “And I don’t just mean just we school board and we the administration, we the community have understood that this is a big decision.”

Next comes money to build on that land. Another unanimous vote, this one a resolution calling for a $153 million bond issue to be put in front of voters in November.

”We have a lot of work to do right now,” superintendent Dr. Terry Haack said. “We have to continue to educate the community on what the bond issue is, and we look forward to doing that, we want to get the public engaged.”

The move came after surveys, phone calls, and public hearings were done to discuss the issues facing the growing part of Douglas County. Of those who spoke during public comments, the majority approved of the move, even if they still have questions. Public engagement is exactly what got the latest school site purchase done after the previous one was loudly opposed by the public. It also has perhaps paved the way for the largest school bond in Bennington history.

Bennington second site map
Bennington second site map(PHOTO: Brent Weber WOWT)

The need for a second high school is obvious, as the district has repeatedly outlined over the past several months.

“The current enrollment of the 5th through 8th-grade students exceeds the capacity at the high school when they reach their high school years,” board member Allyson Slobotsky said. “More specifically, if we have zero growth in enrollment, not one more student in those grades, we will be exceeding capacity, and not just by a couple of students.”

With population growth in the district, the superintendent says not only must Bennington get high school number two open as soon as possible, but plans for a third high school also can’t be too far down the road.

“When we look at demographers, when we look at our own history, we talk to developers, city planners, what we suspect, what we’ve been told, is that we’re looking at a 12,000-14,000 student district. Right now, we’re a little over 4,000.”

A new high school is just part of the proposed use for the bond funds. Additions to existing schools in terms of classrooms and facilities, an expanded football stadium at Bennington High School, and needed upgrades and infrastructure projects fall under the plan as passed in the resolution Monday. The district now must file the appropriate paperwork by September 1 to move forward with presenting the bond issue to voters in November.