District 1 will go ahead and submit a loan application to the state for a building project that voters rejected at the polls, mainly to keep all potential options on the table as it decides what to do about crowding at the schools.
The action was taken Monday morning during a special board meeting called to accept the canvass of the election, which was also done unanimously. The final vote tally submitted to the board was 918 yes to 1,299 no votes.
The district can return to voters within 90 days, but if they do, they’d need to have a loan application on file with the Department of Public Construction by April 1 to proceed with any construction.
Loan applications are due to the state each year by April 1. By submitting the application, the district keeps viable an option to ask voters a second time to approve a $77.2 million bond issue to build two elementary schools and a high school addition to relieve over-crowding.
“We are looking at all of our options right now,” Campbell said. “We have contacted various modular companies that provide modular facilities, and we are taking a look at other spaces that are already built.”
Among these is the Baker Hughes building on the west side of Williston. Campbell and two building level principals toured the facility there two weeks ago to evaluate its fitness for student instruction. School facilities have to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, among other restrictions.
“Every option is being evaluated right now,” Campbell said. “We are staying strong with our enrollment numbers of 500 kindergartners coming for fall of 2018, so we have to find a space to put them.”
Seven elementary classrooms that were being used for various small group instruction could likely be repurposed, Campbell suggested. But the groups using those would have to relocate somewhere.
“We’re in the situation of finding what I call small closets for small classrooms for students to do one-on-one instruction and things of that nature,” he said.
Predicting enrollment figures has been complicated in Williston by the oil industry’s ups and downs. Campbell said the district thought its new facilities would last eight to 10 years, but enrollment has substantially exceeded expectations.
District officials watch a number of trends to try and predict enrollment, including oil prices and job postings from Job Services ND’s Williston office, as well as birth rates at the hospital to try.
Of late, Job Services has posted 1,800 job openings, 300 in the oilfield. That represents just a fraction of all the job openings, as not all companies use the service. It’s a good indicator, however, that more people could well be on the way.
“There are very good-paying jobs open in the area,” Campbell said. “And we’re having new kids enroll every day.”
The district does both a fall and spring enrollment count.
“Last spring it was 3,840, and we were up about a couple hundred students above what we’d put in for the spring before,” Campbell said. “If things stay the way they are, we will be up another couple hundred students on the spring report we will submit at the end of the school term. Families are coming in and staying, and we are growing.”
That’s a good problem to have on the one hand, Campbell said.
“But it is a capacity issue,” he added. “We have to address that capacity issue.”