The question: Why is an addition to Williston High School, which opened in fall 2016, one of the projects Williston Public School District No. 1 is planning if its bond referendum set for April 9 passes?
The answer: The short answer is that as of Feb. 27, there were 1,236 students enrolled at WHS, which was built with a capacity of 1,200 students. The longer answer is that when the district’s school board was looking at projects for a bond referendum package, it at first considered not including an expansion of the high school.
But, as board members noted during a town hall meeting in late February, they heard from the public that they might lose voters if they didn’t address overcrowding at the high school level. Board President Joanna Baltes said members of a community task force pointed out that the three new board members elected in June all promised to find a comprehensive solution for overcrowding and dealing with enrollment growth.
“It was our task force that said, ‘No, no, no, if you don’t address the high school, you’re not (proposing) a long-term plan,’” she said.
The board decided to include an expansion that will add space for 400 students at the high school, bringing its total capacity to 1,600. The addition will add both classroom and what’s referred to as “core” space — space for physical education and expanded lunch seating.
Board member Dr. Theresa Hegge said board members decided they had to include the high school addition because if they didn’t, overcrowding would just get worse as enrollment continues to grow.
“The issue with the high school is not an issue that’s going away,” she said.
Voters will weigh in on issuing a bond of up to $60 million and increasing the district’s building fund property tax levy from 10 mills to 20 mills. If both are approved, they will pay for two new 600-student elementary schools, the 400-student addition to WHS and upgrades to accessibility and security at the district’s existing elementary schools.