The USD 443 Board of Education observed a moment of silence at its Aug. 14 meeting.

The request was made by Dr. Fred Dierksen, Superintendent of Schools, in honor of former Superintendent Alan Cunningham, who passed away unexpectedly last week.

"We felt it was appropriate with the events that occurred last week to give due recognition to Alan Cunningham and his life and 43 years to this district," he said.

Dierksen told the board that the district is projecting an enrollment of around 7300 students for the 2017-2018 school year. If the projections hold true, that’s an increase of more than 100 students from last year.

The district has seen steady growth since 2007 and expects that trend to last for several more years.

"We're busting at the seams at the middle school level," he said. "There are several possibilities as we look at what can be done in the future."

Dierksen discussed the use of the Civic Center as a third middle school, as well as turning Soule Elementary School into an intermediate center for sixth grade.

"We have some options to take pressure off middle schools but I wanted you to see indications are enrollment is still in a trajectory to continue to grow," Dierksen explained.

Dierksen explained that eventually, the increased number of students the district has seen for the past several years at the elementary level will become middle-school students, something that could lead to overcrowding in the future.

"We have to pay attention to these numbers and see where it's taking us," he said. "My biggest concern is middle schools and what we'll do there in the very near future, so that is on my radar."

Board member Jeff Hiers asked what the capacity will be at Dodge City Middle School following the bond construction.

"The expansion is not pure, new space," assistant superintendent of secondary education Dr. Glenn Fortmayer said. "It's replacing space that was being met by portables."

Principal Mike King added that the school was at capacity at about 800 students.

"One of the things you have to remember is we were nine classrooms short before construction started," he said. "We were on the stage and in little cubby holes and closets all over the building when we hit 800. We didn't really have the classroom space; we just made it work."

The construction is adding 11-12 additional classrooms.

"But we were already nine short so you can see we'll be at capacity shortly," King said.

Fortmayer added that in order to add a special education classroom at Comanche Middle School last year, a health class had to be bumped.

"We are that tight," he said.

Comanche Principal Marc Woofter said every room is being used right now.

"We're comfortable but with any growth….," Woofter added.

In other business, executive director of business and operations Bill Hammond reported that work is progressing on district-wide security measures.

"Instead of taking straight bids, we conducted interviews," he said.   "Six offered proposals and we interviewed three of them."

After completing the selection process, the security contractor selected for the project was Haynes Electrical/Pinnacle Fire.

Board member Traci Rankin asked if the district was replacing systems at Dodge City High School and both middle schools.

Hammond assured her the existing cameras will tie in to this new system.

"This system is expandable and scalable to meet future needs of the district," he said.

Dierksen added that security was a crucial portion of the bond issue.

"I’m worried about covering the safety issue to its fullest," he added. "Sometimes, when you’re looking at a bond project, unintentionally, some safety factors can be overlooked in an effort to save money."

Dierksen asked a board member to serve on a safety analysis committee to ensure the district is doing everything possible for safety, and to demonstrate to voters that safety remained a main concern throughout the process.

Dierksen said it was important to address all safety issues and make sure every building is treated fairly.

Rankin was appointed to the committee.

The board is holding a special meeting with a Kansas Association of School Board representative to discuss goals on Aug. 21 at 6 p.m. in the Austen Auditorium.