December 18, 2013

School Board approves east site for new school

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

The McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 school board has officially picked a 40-acre site in the Fox Hills development east of Watford City as the site for a new school building. The final decision was made during the board’s Dec. 10 meeting where they considered the top three sites.
According to Steve Holen, district superintendent, the board was very fortunate to have three very good sites to choose from with landowners willing to donate the land for the school.
“The school district is really appreciative of the land owners who came forward with land for the new school,” states Holen. “We recognize that the land on which the school is going to be built is of significant monetary value.”
According to Holen, Steve Stenehjem is donating the land in the Fox Hills development, while the Holm family was willing to donate the land for the parcel north of Watford City.
With the site of the new school finally determined, Holen says that the next step will be for the district to work with Stenehjem to begin prepping the site and for the architectural firm to begin working on plans.
“Now that we have the site selected, over the next few months, JLG, our architectural firm, will be developing the construction documents with the goal of being ready for a spring construction,” stated Holen.  
According to Holen, during the board’s January meeting, a construction manager will also be hired.
“We want the new school to reflect modern educational technology,” stated Holen. “This new school is a tremendous opportunity for us to meet the educational needs of our community for the next 30 years.”
Over the next month, Holen also noted that he would be putting all of the financial pieces together to fund the construction of the new school.
“My goal is to put together a financial package that will have a minimal impact on our taxpayers,” stated Holen. “And we are going to have to work with the city of Watford City on how we are going to lay out the school on the site to coincide with the city’s plans for a new community recreation center.”
According to Holen, the board will be determining the amount of money that it will need to bond for the construction at its January meeting, as well as determine how much it will cost each of the district’s property owners in new taxes.
“Our goal is to have a March 11 election to vote on the bond issue and the authorization for construction,” stated Holen.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, the board also accepted the resignation of Jay Diede as Watford City High School Principal at the end of the school year. Diede has been with the district for 29 years, 25 of which as high school principal.
“Over the years, the high school principal position has been a long-tenured position which has been very beneficial to the district,” stated Holen. “We will begin the process of seeking a replacement in January. We are optimistic that we will find a replacement.”
Holen also informed the board that the district received a $1.3 million grant from the McKenzie County Infrastructure Funds that will be used to purchase eight 72-passenger busses, as well as a handicap bus and a new charter-style activity bus. The district also received $539,729 in a state Rapid Enrollment Grant and a $35,059 safety grant for the installation of new security doors.