After 70 years as two districts, the two school systems that serve Williston have taken a big step toward becoming one.

The boards for both Williston Public School District No. 1 and Williams County Public School District No. 8 voted unanimously Monday, Aug. 10, to approve a reorganization plan. The plan, which officials from both districts have been working on for weeks, creates one district serving nearly 5,000 students.

“It’s certainly been a long time coming, but once we got to it, it didn’t take very long (to create a plan),” District 1 board President Thomas Kalil said Monday before the vote. “I’m happy that this is done. I’m happy we’re going to move forward today.”

Board member Laurie Garbel asked about the status of the voluntary property transfers District 8 is submitting to the state. The board for District 8 is proposing turning over land to three school districts: Nesson Public School District No. 2 in Ray, Tioga Public School District No. 15 and Grenora Public School District No. 99.

Jeffrey Thake, superintendent for District 1, said he had spoken to David Goetz, superintendent for District 8 about the land transfers.

“Yes, that’s already in the hands of the county,” Thake said. “I spoke with Mr. Goetz today. They’ve already taken care of all that. And if for whatever reason the land transfers didn’t go through, it would just be returned to the new school district.”

Garbel also suggested that starting soon, the two districts start to meet to discuss options for handling high school enrollment next year.

That way, both districts will be ready for next year, regardless of whether the reorganization is approved by voters.

“Just so we can hit the ground running, no matter what the situation is,” Garbel said.

The board for District 8 approved the plan at its regular meeting, about an hour after the District 1 meeting ended. Goetz said he was going to take the plan to the county tomorrow along with the unofficial minutes from both meetings so the process can get underway.

A committee appointed by the county Superintendent of Schools has to hold a hearing and approve the plan, and it will then move to the state level. The state Board of Public Education will also hold a hearing and if that board also approves the plan, residents in both districts will have the chance to vote on the plan in December.

About the plan

The reorganization plan calls for a seven-member school board with two members coming from outside city limits and five elected at-large. Everyone in the district will be able to vote for all seven positions.

The plan offers different tax rates for residents based on their previous district. Former District 1 residents will have a tax rate about 20 mills higher than former District 8 residents.

The new district will have a taxable valuation of about $228 million, compared to $118,542,060 for District 1 alone and $130,035,969 for District 8 alone.

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