In what was likely the longest community forum the district has organized thus far, district officials, school principals and Vice President of JE Dunn Marc Mellmer provided information and fielded questions from the audience and those streaming the forum via Facebook Live for over an hour and a half.
The team showed video of the school and interviews with teachers and students at the beginning of the forum. They said their goal was to make more and to speak to people in all departments of the school.
They also showed the audience photos of other new schools in Williston, Bismarck and Watford City.
The project designs are not nearly complete and are flexible.
"If there's a better way, a better placement ... we're open to those considerations. There's nothing that has been put in stone," said Assistant Superintendent Keith Harris.
Mellmer stressed that they are still accepting suggestions for the project and are already considering making a couple of changes to the design based on conversations with community members.
One of those changes could be to the location of the softball field, which some were concerned about.
"Marc Mellmer and I have fielded a few phone calls and had conversations with some concerned citizens with proximity to where (the softball diamonds are) at. We've been working with Perkins and Will (the architect) to see if we can adjust. ... They are working on potentially putting them somewhere else," said Guy Fridley, Dickinson High School's activities director.
They discussed possible changes to the Career and Technical Education building.
One of the audience members asked Mellmer: "Is the welding area, automotive, small engine area, construction area-are those larger than what we have now, or smaller?"
Mellmer said after spending time with the teachers in the CTE department, they're looking at altering plans.
"That is changing, and that is expanding. ... We certainly don't want to give them less than what they have now. ... I do care about it, and I want to make sure they have adequate space, or more than adequate space," he said.
They addressed some of the lingering questions from the last forum regarding the middle school and high school.
Harris, while he was not in the district at the time, speculated as to why the district built the middle school before the high school. He described the district's student population as a pyramid-with there being significantly more Kindergarteners than seniors.
"I don't think anybody when they made the decision to build the middle school said, 'We'll build the middle school, and we'll put the hammer away. We don't need anything more.' ... They probably said, 'The growth will hit the middle school first, but it's going to hit the high school next," Harris said.
One of the Facebook Live users were concerned that the population would decline due to the boom/bust of the oil industry. DHS Principal Kevin Hoherz addressed the issue.
"The slowdown that happened two years ago- at the high school, we didn't lose students. Our student enrollment stayed the same or increased," he said.
Harris added that the birth rate-and thus the number of future students-is accelerating.
"That birthrate, for the last two years, we've topped 700. We're on track to break that record this year. ... Historically-and this has been true through boom and bust-- 80 percent of the live births enroll in Kindergarten five years later," he said.
Audience member Joshua Lehman told the rest of the community that the oil industry and the jobs within it are changing and becoming more long-term.
Arnie Binek taught at Dickinson High School for over 30 years and has been a resident of Dickinson his whole life. He remembers what the school was like in the 1980s, when the town had a large increase in population and student enrollment swelled.
He said they had four or five pods at the time-temporary buildings to alleviate crowding.
"That doesn't work. When kids have to go outside to another building and come in, it's just not overly functional ... It's not a very productive form of education," Binek said. "This school is not made for over 1,000 students. ... After teaching here for 30-some years, I know. I went through it. It's not secure, and it can't be. It's just not made that way. The amount of money that we would spend trying to fix it up, I think, would be a waste of taxpayer dollars."
He said a refinery coming to the west of town will bring in even more people.
"There's going to be a great number of people that will be in the oil field out there. That's an added thing; that's not just part of the regular oil field," Binek said. "That's a couple hundred families. That's going to make a big difference, and if we're not ready for that, I don't know where they're going to go."
He thinks the people who have moved to Dickinson for the oil industry jobs are here to stay.
"They've got jobs here. It's good paying jobs, and they're going to stay here. Even if the price of oil dropped, I don't see them packing up and moving out like they did (in the 80s)," Binek said.
He believes more of the workers bring families than did in the past, making them more likely to stay.
The Press is asking the public via poll on our Facebook page-- will you vote for or against the bond? As of the end of the forum, the vote was split nearly evenly, with 57 for and 56 against.