District, school board discuss plans for maintenance, overcrowding at high school following failed bond vote

Thousands of Dickinson Public Schools district residents voted on a $89M bond referendum to fund a new high school. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)

Dickinson Public Schools and the school board discussed plans to move forward after the failed bond vote.

The referendum was to fund a new $89M high school to alleviate overcrowding and avoid maintenance costs on the current building. The canvassed vote stands at 1,463 for the bond and 2,470 against.

Superintendent Shon Hocker told the school board, Monday, that the district will have to make plans as if the current high school will remain for at least another 4-6 years.

"We're going to have to spend some money on the high school to keep it as is. We spent $120,000 to repair the roof this summer, and with all of this rain that we had these last few weeks, the places that leaked was where we didn’t fix," he said.

Hocker said the district will strain its funds on maintenance for the high school if it doesn't increase the building fund.


"I know the district tried to double that building fund levy back in June of 2018, and that went over just about as good as this last election did; however, my understanding is most people had no idea really what that did. Our building fund levy, with having 10 campuses to take care of and having $1.2M ... you can't take care of 10 buildings with a million bucks," he said.

The district will also have to address overcrowding at the school.

"We're talking 70 or 80 additional 8th graders coming into the high school next year, compared to seniors graduating and moving out," Hocker said.

That number does not take into account any growth in the district, which he's projected to be at 4-5%.

"We're looking at maybe right off the bat possibly offering — as early as next year and maybe even second semester — what I'll call period 5 classes —maybe even period zero classes. It would depend upon student and teacher interest, but we may have to look at extending the day by a (class) period or two," Hocker said.

The last resort, he said, would be running a split schedule once the school reaches 1,400-1,500 students. He hopes to be able to defer a split schedule by extending the school day.

Hocker added that he has spoken to people at Dickinson State University about offering a couple of classes there, but it would create an additional busing expense.

Other ideas included cutting electives at the high school or rejecting open enrollment students, those who live in another district but wish to attend a Dickinson school.


Dickinson High School Principal Kevin Hoherz suggested they set firm limits on the number of students enrolled per class.

"We can only put in so many kids in those classrooms ... For educational purposes, we talked about measuring them, coming up with a set number, and not going beyond those numbers. I think that's the first step we do. We can't keep saying, well, our class limits are 30, then say it's 32 and put 33 in (there)," he said.

The district also floated ideas to address the need for an additional elementary school, including building a new building or adding onto a current one.

They speculated on the cause of the bond failure.

Hocker and Dickinson School Board President Brent Seaks both said that some people in the community believed they weren't being heard, that the decision to build a new high school was "top down." They discussed ways of getting the community more involved in the process, including small group meetings.

"If it's a matter of not seeing the need, let's talk about that. If it's a matter of you don't like the plan or the cost of the plan, let's talk about that," Seaks said.

Kayla Henson is a former Dickinson Press reporter.
What To Read Next
A resolution looking to allow the legislature to consider work requirements on the newly expanded Medicaid program is one step closer to the 2024 ballot.
With HB 1205, Reps Mike Lefor and Vicky Steiner would prohibit "sexually explicit content" in public libraries. Facing an uphill battle, the pair remain united in their commitment to see it passed.
The North Dakota Highway Patrol is investigating the crash.
City accountant reports increases in oil impact, sales tax, hospitality tax and occupancy tax revenue during the Jan. 24 meeting, commission approves two policy amendments.