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'That ship sailed years ago': Concerns raised regarding bond for new school

Kevin Hoherz and Jim Peters during Wednesday's public forum. Peters was opposed to the bond proposal, and said the district should seek alternatives. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)1 / 3
Bill Kohler expressed his concerns about the proposed $115 million for a new high school and elementary school in Dickinson. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press) 2 / 3
There were fewer members of the public in attendance compared to the previous forums. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)3 / 3

During Wednesday night's Dickinson High School forum, Superintendent Shon Hocker addressed the need for a new elementary school in addition to a new high school, and where the district would get its funding.

The high school is estimated to cost $108 million, which would leave $7 million remaining of the $115 million bond to be used for the construction of a new elementary school. The district would pull approximately $10 million from its reserves and building fund. Even that $17 million would fall approximately $8 million short of what they're estimated to need.

Community turnout was lower than for previous forums. Attendees asked questions about other solutions to the crowding issue and about the impact on their taxes.

Jim Peters, who worked as a counselor at DHS from its opening until 1997, asked Hocker if the forums will only address building a new high school.

"Is it already to that point where they can't think of alternative measures?" he asked.

"Jim, I'll be honest," Hocker responded. "We're way past that point. That ship sailed years ago, honestly. This whole last year, there's been so much community involvement trying to decide what to do, whether the new school would be on this location or a different location. All of those discussions have taken place for the last several years."

Peters and another man in the audience wanted to know why the middle school was built instead of a high school.

"To me, we could still convert this school to a junior high, make the junior high the high school ... That's what I meant when I said mistakes have been made in the past," Peters said. "They never should have built that junior high out there, as far as I'm concerned."

Hocker said the cost to renovate the school to "make it a good school" would be over $100 million. Additionally, he said the number of middle school students would soon surpass the capacity for the high school.

"We're just a little bit south of 900 kids," Hocker said. "That's very close to 300 per grade level, so you can see if we had that same group here, with one more grade—if we had four grades here—you would have 1,200 in a school that was built for 1,000 or 1,100."

Peters isn't convinced. After the forum, he said he opposes the bond because he feels there are other solutions to the problem.