Williams County Public School District No. 8’s superintendent was caught off guard last week at a suggestion that Williston Public School District No. 1 might not accept District 8 high school students anymore.
At a meeting Monday, Jan. 14, the District 1 board discussed ways of dealing with future overcrowding, including possibly no longer accepting high school students from District 8. Because District 8 only offers kindergarten through eighth grade, state law requires surrounding districts to accept its high school students.
The vast majority of District 8 students — about 240 — attend Williston High School.
Board Vice President Thomas Kalil said at the Jan. 14 meeting that state law wouldn’t apply if a school is overcrowded. WHS, which opened in 2016, was built to handle 1,200 students.
For the 2018-19 school year, there are about 1,240 at WHS, and projections for next year put enrollment at 1,386.
District 8 superintendent Rob Turner criticized the District 1 board for proposing a change to a situation that’s been in place since the 1950s.
“(It would be) irresponsible of them to kick the kids out with nowhere to go,” Turner said.
At the District 1 meeting on Jan. 14, board members said they wanted to bring up the issue now, but that they would only take action on excluding District 8 students if voters don’t OK a proposal that would build 2 new elementary schools and an addition to WHS.
Turner said no one from District 1 contacted him about the topic, which surprised him, since the two districts have had several joint meetings since spring 2018. He said he thinks the best path would be the districts to work together to find a solution and to support plans for new schools in both.
“Let’s make a plan going forward to deal with this,” he said.
On Thursday, Jan. 24, District 8 is holding an informational session about its plans for new schools, which Turner said might include a high school for the district. The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at Missouri Ridge School.
In December, the district held an informational session where Turner talked about a possible plan for two new elementary schools, each with a capacity of 450 students. Since then, residents have approached him about the need for a high school.
Whether a new high school will be on the agenda is still something the District 8 board needs to discuss, he said.