By Amy Dalrymple
WATFORD CITY — Voters in this rapidly growing city overwhelmingly said yes Tuesday to a $27 million bond referendum to finance a new high school.
Ninety percent of voters supported the bond measure, which means the McKenzie County School District can proceed with financing a $50 million high school to house grades 7-12. The vote total was 748 in favor of the referendum to 83 opposed, according to complete but unofficial results.
Superintendent Steve Holen said the level of support illustrates that the district is moving in the right direction.
“We’re ready to address the growth head on,” Holen said.
Denise Grantier of Watford City, who has grandchildren in the district, was among residents who voted in favor of the bond referendum. If the vote had failed, the district planned to use portable classrooms to accommodate the growing enrollment.
“I don’t want to see little pods all over,” Grantier said. “We definitely need a new building.”
Groups of high school seniors were among those who voted Tuesday, many of them voting for the first time.
Senior Victoria Hopkins said she voted no because she didn’t want to see her family’s property taxes go up.
“I think it was a little over the top,” Hopkins said of the expansion plans.
Senior Joseph Meuchel, who has a sister in eighth grade, voted yes and said the new building is necessary to keep up with the growth.
“We’re going to get an influx of students,” Meuchel said.
School enrollment in Watford City has doubled since 2010. The new high school, expected to be under construction starting this spring and completed in 2015, will have a capacity of 800 students. Grades four through six will move to the current high school. Kindergarten through third grade would stay in the elementary school, an expansion completed last fall for grades K-6 that is already crowded.
The district will need to finance the remaining $23 million toward to project. The Bank of North Dakota approved a loan of $10 million to $15 million to the district last week.