Omaha districts build new schools to accommodate increasing student population

BENNINGTON, Neb. (WOWT) -- As small school districts orbiting the metro area grow larger, school officials must deal with the influx of new students that come with it.

In some cases, that means expansion; for others, addition.

Elkhorn Public Schools is building a third high school to deal with student growth in that area.

In Gretna, school officials say there are more than 350 new students a year over the last five in their district. A new elementary school is scheduled to open later this year and another one is scheduled to open in 2021.

In Bennington, school officials plan to go back to the voters to approve a bond that will pay to build a new elementary school and a new middle school.

Rachel Rayfield has two children in the Bennington district. Her family has lived here for about six years — the schools attracted them to the area.

“I think that extra attention and the classroom sizes in the school district was a huge reason we bought the house and moved this way in the first place,” Rayfield said.

Bennington Superintendent Dr. Terry Haack wants to keep the classroom population low, but the district is growing, and growing fast.

“The district in 2004 that had one school and 600 students total, K-12, is now six schools and over 3,200 (students),” Haack said.

And he expects the district to continue to grow.

Officials say the number of high school students in Bennington could more than double over the next ten years.

Right now, the district is expanding the current high school and officials plan to ask taxpayers for 72-million dollars to turn this cornfield into a new elementary school, a new middle school, and buy land for a second high school.

“And I would tell you some might think that we’re in front we got to wait for the houses to come and some would tell you as their kids are in school and doubling up in certain areas that we’re behind,” Haack said.

Rayfield said she thinks the district has been wise with taxpayer money, and that she will support the bond issue.

Haack says Bennington has been able to pass five bond issues since 2003.

“Each time a vote comes in, you have to remember that anywhere from 30 to 45 percent of the people vote 'no,' ” he said.

Haack is hoping Bennington will be able to continue to grow programs and opportunities for students as the community continues to grow.

Bennington Public Schools will conduct their bond election by mail-in ballot. Ballots should arrive in the mail to registered voters around Feb. 19 and must be turned in by 5 p.m. March 10. [INFO]