Superintendent of Dickinson Public Schools Shon Hocker and Vice President of JE Dunn, Marc Mellmer, answer commonly asked questions about the upcoming school bond referendum. Direct quotes are in quotation marks; paraphrases are not.
Is the school too nice?
JE DUNN: The design of the school is similar to other schools that have been built in the last few years, including Watford City, Williston and Legacy. See the next question regarding the size of the school.
Why is the school so big?
JE DUNN: Unlike towns such as Bismarck, Dickinson does not have a shared career and technical facility to serve multiple schools, so a new DHS would need to include space for CTE. Dickinson also does not have a convention center to host graduations or sporting events, so the capacity of the school auditorium needs to be greater than that of schools in cities such as Bismarck that do have convention centers.
Why is the school so expensive?
JE DUNN: "The cost per square foot is not expensive! This project is in the middle of comparable schools built in North Dakota over the last 10 years after adjusted to current dollars. The total construction value is estimated to be $95M including all of the sitework, the demolition of 60% of the existing building, and the renovation of the remaining 40% of the building. The total square footage is 367,000 square feet. That comes out to be $258/sf. If you subtract the sitework and the demolition, the cost comes down to $237/sf."
Will there be more or less space for CTE?
JE DUNN: The current shop areas of CTE (which include construction, agriculture, automotive, small engines and welding) total just over 20,000 square feet. The new building will increase that space to over 39,000 square feet. Including other areas of CTE without shops such as business, health careers and technology, the current building has 40,000 square feet. The new building would increase the space to 77,000 square feet.
How will this impact commercial property owners' taxes?
JE DUNN: "The property tax impact on commercial property once the full debt amount is drawn is projected to be an increase of approximately $258/year per $100,000 of true and full value for that commercial property. This is slightly higher than the projected impact on residential property due to a difference in the property tax calculation formula."
*To see how the bond would impact your residential property taxes, see The Dickinson Press article titled How $115 million bond for DHS would impact your taxes or see the tax calculator posted on the district's website.
How will this impact farm owners' taxes?
DPS, Kent Anderson, business manager: "The property tax impact on farmland once the full debt amount is drawn is projected to be an increase of approximately $1.30 per acre/per year for land with a true and full value of $500 per acre."
What improvements to safety and security will the new building provide that the old one doesn't?
JE DUNN: The new facility would allow for parents and guests to enter the building through one secure entrance. School officials will have the technology to know when an exit door is not properly secured.
"The planning team has worked closely with the school administrators, teachers, staff, and other community stakeholders to plan a school that prioritizes school safety and security. In that process, we've consulted resources including the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. As the building and site design is refined, we will continue to implement best practices for school security."
What improvements to accessibility will the new building provide that the old one doesn't?
JE DUNN: "A person with disabilities will be able to easily access fields, parking, and building entrances. Learning and administrative spaces in the new building are planned to support people with disabilities. All entrances to the building addition are accessible."
What is the connection between birth rates and the student population? How many of those babies become Kindergarteners?
DPS: Traditionally 75-80% of Dickinson births become kindergarten students 5 years later
What happens with the oil busts? Will the excess people leave?
DPS: "Possibly. However, the last time there was a "bust" student enrollment didn't fall. This leads me to believe that some of the population of Dickinson may have left the area; however, those with students in our schools remained."
What is the district's plan B?
DPS: "If the referendum narrowly is defeated, plan B will include a second attempt. If the referendum overwhelmingly is defeated, plan B may include larger class sizes, restricted enrollments, split schedules, half day Kindergarten, immediate plans to replace boiler and roof. Long term plans of locating additional educational space including rental of locations throughout town and/or the purchase of portable classrooms."
If $115 million is not enough to build both schools the district wants to build, why aren't they asking for the full amount they need?
DPS: "$115M is the maximum we can ask for. Rather than asking for $108 today, and 7 next year, the community recommended asking for both at the same time."
How would the new high school serve the community?
DPS: "Additional course offerings to students enrolled in neighboring private schools as well as additional court space for city parks and recreation programs."
Why will the building have a flat roof, when it snows so much in North Dakota?
JE DUNN: "The roof will have proper sloping so it is not a true flat roof. There will also be adequate insulation for utility cost concerns. Flat roofs are common all over the state when you have buildings of this size. The geometry would be far too extensive to do anything other than the proposed method."
Will anything in the Legislature help alleviate the tax burden on the community?
DPS: "Nine bills were presented to the legislature that would have assisted in some sort of property tax relief. All failed. We will continue to work with our local and state legislators to come to an agreement regarding a solution."
Is there assistance for those who cannot afford the tax increase, such as those living on a fixed income?
JE DUNN: There is a Homestead Exemption available for those who qualify within the State of North Dakota. To qualify, you must: Be an individual who is 65 years of age or older, or individuals who are permanently and totally disabled and have an income of $42,000 or less per year. See www.nd.gov/tax/homsetead.
Would the noise level of construction impact the students' learning, given that the new building will be built on the same land?
JE DUNN: "No; this is not a concern. Construction projects on active K-12 campuses are very common. Noise and scheduling considerations will be implemented."
How did the school handle the influx of student it had in the past? Were there more students then than now?
DPS: "Although previous student enrollments may rival enrollments of today, the pressing need today is to address a continuously increasing student enrollment. Predictions indicate high school enrollments will approach 1600 students in the next 10-15 years. DHS has not needed to address those kinds of large numbers in previous years."
Why can't the middle schoolers be moved to the high school and the high schoolers be moved to the middle school?
JE DUNN: "From a capacity perspective, we gain nothing turning the middle school into the high school because the new middle school was built for a capacity of 1,100. The high school will have 1,100 students next year. In 10-15 years, we estimate 1,600 students. From a financial perspective, renovating and expanding on to the current high school in an attempt to gain an additional 50 years of service, capacity, and needs, will match or exceed costs of new construction. The middle school does not have an auditorium, science labs, CTE and specialty classrooms appropriate for high school students. The physical education spaces would not support high school level sports and there is not sufficient parking for high school students. The middle school would need substantial renovations and expansions to make it sufficient for the high school. It would be cost prohibitive."
What is JE Dunn's connection to the YES Committee?
• "JE Dunn has not financially contributed or funded anything with the YES committee. JE Dunn does have employees who attend the YES committee meetings as part of their own beliefs along with many other voting citizens and community members in town.
• JE Dunn did not design the signs for the YES committee or the School District.
• JE Dunn did not pay for the signs for the YES committee or the School District.
• JE Dunn did not print the signs for the YES committee or the School District."
DICKINSON PRESS ARTICLES PERTAINING TO THE REFERENDUM
In the interest of space, we have included no articles published prior to 2017, although The Press has reported on plans to build a new high school prior to that year. More information can be found on the Dickinson Public Schools website.
• DHS to implement career-based academies: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/education/4551030-dhs-implement-c...
• Thinking about the future: Dickinson Public Schools hosts public forum about the future of Dickinson High School: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/education/4342187-thinking-about-...
• DHS expansion planning continues as workshop discusses options: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/education/4414468-dhs-expansion-p...
• School board to seek out alternative architects: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/node/4418020
• State of schools showcases growing pains and accomplishment: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/4420442-state-schools-showcases-g...
• No decision made in DHS workshop; new option considered: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/education/4543306-no-decision-mad...
• One size doesn't fit all: Why a new DHS could be bigger than its eastern counterparts: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/education/4577202-one-size-doesnt...
• DHS hosts community for tours, public forum about improving building: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/4515898-dhs-hosts-community-tours...
• Significant turnout to DHS forum: District answers questions, shows flexibility: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/education/4592136-significant-tur...
• 'That ship sailed years ago:' Concerns raised regarding bond for new school: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/education/4585331-ship-sailed-yea...
• New design option: DHS unveils plans for new school at public forum:
Career and Technical Education
• DSU, school district discuss possibility of shared building: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/4560406-dsu-school-district-discu...
• DHS to collaborate with community to train students for workforce: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/4567411-dhs-collaborate-community...
The bond referendum: the ballot, the impact
• School board discusses bonding increase:https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/4373918-school-board-discusses-bo...
• School board drops question from May ballot: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/education/4583601-school-board-dr...
• How $115 million bond for DHS would impact your taxes: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/education/4582029-how-115-million...
• From the Archives: 1947 Press article changes school referendum: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/education/4581512-archives-1947-p...
JE Dunn, CMAR
• School budget committee discusses hiring construction manager: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/4509547-school-budget-committee-d...
• Further discussion needed on construction manager: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/education/4512754-further-discuss...
• School board approves motion to hire CMAR: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/4514548-school-board-approves-mot...
• Dickinson School Board hires CMAR for high-school project: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/education/4532554-dickinson-schoo...
Problems with current building
• Capacity issues crowd kids in cafeteria at DHS: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/4505871-capacity-issues-crowd-kid...
• Limited space cuts DHS preschool short: https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/education/4530251-limited-space-c...
• We make do with what we have': Meet Chantal Crandell, DHS' dedicated head cook: