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Board seeks input on new school building

Posted 12/11/13 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

While the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 school board has yet to determine the location of its third school building, the board is moving forward with planning work. And they are now seeking the public’s input as to what they would like to see in a new facility.
“At this point in the planning process, it is extremely important that the public weigh in on what they would like the new building to be,” states Steve Holen, district superintendent.
While many people are of the opinion that the proposed new building will be a high school, Holen says that is not the case.
“It has not been determined whether the new building will be a high school, a middle school or an elementary school,” states Holen. “If people want it be to a middle or elementary school, we (the school board) want to hear those thoughts.”
To begin the process of soliciting public input, the school board will be hosting a public forum from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12 in the Watford City High School Commons Area.
“This will be the first of two public forums that the board will be hosting to discuss the new building,” states Holen. “We’re coming in with what the board and the consultant are looking at and we want to know if there is something that we’re missing.”
During Thursday’s meeting, the board will present information on the district’s enrollment growth, as well as options they are considering to meet the growth.
Currently, the district has an enrollment in excess of 1,000 students, with more than 550 students in kindergarten through the fifth grades.
“We want to share with the district’s patrons what we see ahead,” states Holen. “There are challenges and opportunities ahead of us as we try to meet the growth in new students.”
According to Holen, during Thursday’s meeting, the district will share some of the costs that will be associated with the new building, as well review the two sites that are being considered for the new school.
Once the board has taken into consideration the public’s input, they will move forward with further planning activities. A second public input meeting, according to Holen, will be held early in January at which time the board will go over the specifics of the project. In addition, at that meeting the board will provide financial information on what the new school building could cost and the associated cost to district taxpayers.
The board is hoping that construction on the new school can begin in 2014 and that it be open to students either in the fall or early winter of 2015.
“We are heading toward a March election by the school district patrons,” states Holen. “During that election, voters will be asked to approve a new school building and to authorize the issuing of a bond to pay for the construction.”