Dickinson administrators, community react to failed bond vote

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DICKINSON, N.D. - Voters in the Dickinson School District have said no to a bond referendum, meant to build a new high school, for the second time in four months.

For the second bond vote, the school board lowered the amount from $115 million to $89 million and administrators hoped that would get the yes votes they need. But many say the tax increase would still be too much.

The Dickinson School District is back to square one - deciding what to do about overcrowding and poor conditions at the high school. Voters saying on social media - and in town - they just couldn't say yes to the project.

“The public was not really truly informed on the particular issues so more communication within the two parties would have helped I think,” Andrew Rohwedder said.

Superintendent Shon Hocker says that can happen if people attended school board meetings and forums.

“If we could get a few people a few additional people that have maybe not been part of the process in the past to really get engaged they can help share out that information,” Hocker said.

He says they'll start going over next steps at a work session in October. That could include having split schedules, cutting electives, extending the school day or renting space at Dickinson State to hold classes. They'll also have to spend money to fix problems like a leaky roof. And with close to 100 more students expected at the school next year, they'll have to figure it out sooner than later.

“The challenge is getting everyone else to see that long term planning vision rather than reacting when it's too late,” Hocker said.

Hocker says that path will have to be a joint effort between the district and the community, and he hopes with fewer no votes than in May, they're on the right path.

“We're breaking through to some of them and that's important because we're listening to them we're hearing them and I think that gives validation to them that their concerns are being addressed,” Hocker said.

There were a little over 1,400 votes cast for the measure and 2,400 cast against the measure. It needed a 60 percent super majority in order to pass.

Hocker says there's two main reasons the bond is more expensive than ones on the eastern side of the state. One is because construction costs are higher in the Bakken. He also says the high school they're proposing would hold 1,600 students, while other new schools will hold fewer students.