The school board for Williams County Public School District No. 8 voted unanimously Monday, Nov. 4, to give $3 million to help Williston Public School District No. 1 expand Williston High School.
In exchange for the money, the current high school students who live in District 8 would have the chance to finish their high school careers at WHS. Rob Turner, District 8 superintendent, said he thought the move was good for all involved.
“I think it’s a win-win across the board,” Turner told the board at a special meeting Monday. “That’s my opinion.”
The idea came from meetings Turner and District 8 board President Penny Soiseth had with District 1 superintendent Jeff Thake and school board President Joanna Baltes. Turner said the idea was to allow District 8 students to finish their high school years in the same school where they started, if they wanted to. The current freshman, sophomores and juniors who live in District 8 would be grandfathered in and be allowed to graduate.
New students, whether this year’s eighth graders or students moving into the district, would attend high school in District 8.
The proposal is still in the early stages, Turner said, but he and Soiseth were asked to take the idea to the full board to see if members were willing to make a commitment.
“This is step one in the process,” he said.
Board members were pleased with the idea.
“I think it’s definitely in the best interest of those students in those three grade levels,” board member Myles Fisher said.
Soiseth said the proposal would serve both districts.
“That allows us to grow at a little bit of a slower pace,” she said.
Last month, the District 8 board OK’d converting to a K-12 district, with high school grades temporarily having classes in Missouri Ridge. That move came as the two districts negotiated about the fate of the 200 or so District 8 high school students who attend WHS.
In September, the boards from both districts held a joint meeting. District 1 asked for a commitment of $12 million to pay for a 400-student expansion to WHS. The school, which opened in 2016 with a capacity of 1,200, has about 1,315 students this year.
In late September, the District 1 board voted to stop accepting out-of-district students, citing overcrowding.
Board member Kyle Renner said he thought the proposal was good, but said he wanted to wait to make any final decisions until after a Williams County study of the county’s six public school districts. That is expected in March.
Board Vice President Curt Sullivan asked about the logistics of the proposal. He moved to offer District 1 $1.5 million in the 2019-20 school year and another $1.5 million in the 2020-21 school year on the condition a joint powers agreement is reached between the districts and the current District 8 students are grandfathered into WHS.
That motion failed to find a second. Board member Dawn Hollingsworth moved to approve giving District 1 $3 million over two years so District 8 students can remain at WHS. Renner seconded the motion and it passed 5-0.
District 8 has two town-hall sessions this week for people to ask questions about its master plan, including its decision to start offering grades nine through 12 next year. One is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7 at the Williams County Administration Building and the other is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, at Missouri Ridge.