When the Williams County Public School District No. 8 board meets on Monday, May 20, its members will have two major tasks — canvassing the vote from Tuesday’s special bond election and considering a way forward after voters rejected that proposal.
Unofficial totals had a proposed bond of up to $89 million failing with 46 percent of voters saying yes and 54 percent saying no. A proposal to raise the district’s debt limit failed with 44 percent saying yes and 56 percent saying no.
“We thought we had more support, obviously, than what the polls show,” Jenny Jorgenson, board president for District 8, said.
She said the board is going to discuss what to do next after the canvass on Monday. That could mean holding another election, possibly with a revised proposal.
Jorgenson isn’t sure what will happen, partly because the board hasn’t met yet and partly because a school board election on June 11 will mean at least one new board member. Jorgenson is not running for reelection.
Board member Amber Anderson is running again, and three others — Myles Fischer, Dawn Hollingsworth and Kyle Renner — have also filed.
No matter who is on the board, though, members will have to come up with a solution for increasing enrollment. The proposal on the ballot Tuesday would have built two 600-student elementary schools and a 600-student high school.
Garden Valley Elementary is over capacity and the site doesn’t allow for expansion. Missouri Ridge, which was planned as a middle school, is already housing elementary school students and also over capacity. The district is continuing to add on to that school, though.
Round Prairie is not over capacity, but because of its age and its location, it needs to be replaced, district officials have said.
“The rising student population isn’t going anywhere,” Jorgenson said.
One idea that has been considered is collaborating with Williston Public School District No. 1 on an expansion to Williston High School. That’s something the board will have to consider, Jorgenson said.
But, she said, the people who have suggested District 8 should dissolve and send its students elsewhere aren’t thinking about how difficult that would be. There are more than 650 students enrolled in District 8 this year, and when its high school-aged students are added in, that number climbs to nearly 900.
At a meeting in Bismarck earlier this year, Kirsten Baesler, superintendent of public instruction for North Dakota, pointed out that District 8 is nearly as big as Beulah Public School District No. 27 in Mercer County, which few would consider a small district.
“How do you get rid of a school district the size of Beulah?” Jorgenson asked. “You have to find something to do with them.”
With District 1 already overcrowded at nearly every grade level and two building proposals in District 1 failing to get the 60 percent required to pass, there isn’t much room in other districts, either.
“It will need to be looked at again,” Jorgenson said.