Regional Briefs

Board awards $8 million for school

BISMARCK The Board of University and School Lands (Land Board) Monday awarded an energy impact grant of $8 million to Watford City and the McKenzie County Public School District for street, water and sewer infrastructure that will support the construction of a new high school and residential development.

The Land Board also committed to provide another $3 million in grants next year to help cover the utility construction costs.

“These state funds will support the construction of critical infrastructure that will accommodate the building of a new high school and other development in Watford City,” said Gov. Jack Dalrymple, chairman of the five-member Land Board. “We will continue working with local officials in the state’s oil and gas region to address the dynamic challenges of rapid growth.”

Watford City voters approved a $27 million bond referendum on March 11 to finance building a $50 million high school.

Other Land Board members are Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Secretary of State Al Jaeger, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler and State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt. The Land Board voted unanimously in favor of awarding the grant funds to Watford City and the local school district.

Williston pondering new school

Superintendent Viola LaFontaine said people at a forum held last week to discuss the future of the school district said they were most interested in the idea of building the new high school.

Williston voters defeated a $55 million bond issue and a 10 mill increase for the school district building fund in December 2012. LaFontaine said the forums are being held this spring to determine what voters will support. The school board has not yet decided on a date for a revised possible bond issue, but LaFontaine said June or September are possible dates.

About 100 people attended the forum held last week. The plan that attracted the most interest would involve building a new high school on donated land. Middle school students would stay in the current high school building, with fifth and sixth-graders from the district being moved over to that building. That would free up more space in the district’s five elementary schools.

The $55 million cost would be covered by a combination of bonds and loans. LaFontaine said the Bank of North Dakota offers some loan programs to schools.

LaFontaine said there are currently 3,058 students in the district and enrollment has increased 14 percent in the last few years. Enrollment has held steady and there is a need for more space, she said.