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How do we grow? Public gathers for DPS meeting; South Heart student denied open enrollment

Press Photo by Katherine Grandstrand Community members, leaders and educators gathered Thursday night at the Hagen Junior High gymnasium to let officials know what type of growth they would like to see in the Dickinson Public School system.

By Katherine Grandstrand

If there was one thing Chris Gibbs wanted people to take away from a Dickinson Public Schools workshop, it was planning for the needs of the community and its students.

“The most important conversations you need to have regard(ing) this issue are the ones you have when you leave this room,” Gibbs said. “If you leave this room and don’t talk about this issue anymore, I didn’t do a very good job. This is your decision.”

Officials and community members met for the school district’s third and final public workshop in an effort to make sure that there is not only enough room for all the students coming to the school district, but that new and remodeled facilities match what students need.

After collecting data from two previous meetings, Gibbs of the DLR Group, a Minneapolis-based architecture firm, presented three growth scenarios for Dickinson Public Schools to community members gathered in the gymnasium at Hagen Junior High on Thursday evening.

He explained the results of the data collected at meetings in December and February, explaining who showed up — mostly parents in their 40s who had lived in Dickinson for at least a decade — and how they prioritized needed growth.

The most popular options, in order, were building a new middle school, building a new high school and moving the middle school to the high school, or building a new elementary school while providing upgrades to the high school and junior high school. The prioritization came about during the February workshop.

The options come with a price tag — which means an increase in property taxes through 20-year bonding. At the last workshop those attending were asked what they would be able to afford on their monthly property tax bill based on the average value of a Dickinson home. Those values ranged from $13 to $45 per month, which translates into $30 million to $100 million over two decades.

The average consensus was $26, Gibbs said.

The attendees broke into small groups to discuss the options. The consensus was to build a new middle school, adding sixth-graders to the seventh- and eighth-grades, with a new high school a distant second. No groups voted for a new elementary school.

One idea developed by DPS staff was a transition center for new students. Estimated to cost more than $800,000, many at the assembly thought the funds would be better used to complete some of the $38 million deferred maintenance needed to bring the district up to date.

Many questioned where the money would come from. As of the 2013-14 biennium, there is no funding available from the state.

“Neither the Dickinson School Board nor the administration believes that it should be the exclusive responsibility of our taxpayers to pay the entire bill to educate the children of the workers who are generating billions of dollars for the state,” Superintendent Doug Sullivan said to a round of applause.

Gibbs will be back again in April to present a preliminary recommendation, along with its price tag, to the board based on the results of the three workshops.

Open enrollment denied for South Heart student

At a special meeting of the Dickinson Public School Board before the public input meeting, the board decided to deny enrollment at DHS to eighth-grader Heidi Jazwa of South Heart.

At its regular meeting March 10 Heidi petitioned the board to allow her to attend Dickinson High School in the autumn. Heidi currently attends Hope Christian Academy after being bullied by two girls at South Heart Public Schools. She made friends at Hope Christian who will be attending DHS in the fall.

Sullivan recommended denial because Hope Christian has agreements with DPS to allow parochial school children opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities and attend classes not offered at Hope Christian’s high school, including the health careers courses Heidi was excited about.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
(701) 456-1206