Williston District 1 goes ahead with school designs

preliminary designs for two new elementary schools and an addition to the high school

Williston Public School District No. 1 is moving forward with preliminary designs for two new elementary schools and an addition to the high school in advance of a bond referendum.

The district’s school board voted 5-0 Monday evening to pay about $590,000 to JLG Architects to create schematic designs for the three buildings. The total projected cost for the project is about $76 million, and construction will be about $61 million, according to Lee Dobrinz from JLG.

A tentative date for the vote of March 20 was discussed at the Monday meeting. Jodi Germundson, district business manager, told the board that they would need to approve a resolution for the election at its January meeting, which is scheduled for Jan. 8.

The March 20 date was chosen by the building committee because it’s after the district’s spring break but before Easter.

Dobrinz told the board that starting the designs now would speed up the process by about six months, assuming the public approves a bond.

“We just want to make sure everyone’s OK with the idea that those costs would be incurred before the referendum,” he said.

Having JLG start work on the schematic design would allow construction to start earlier and possibly allow the new schools to open in fall 2019, while waiting would mean it would open in the spring of 2020 at the earliest, Dobrinz said. It could also save the district money, he said.

Board member Robert Krom questioned where the money would come from. Germundson told him it would come out of the district’s building fund, as opposed to the general fund.

District 1 is going to hold another public meeting about the proposed schools in late January, and a survey similar to one given out at a public meeting last week is going to be posted to the district website, willistonschools.org.

About 50 people attended the meeting last week, and most people supported the options presented, according to Dobrinz and Nick Lippert, also with JLG. Out of 34 surveys that answered a question about whether they supported building one new elementary, two new elementaries or two new elementaries and an addition to the high school, 25 supported the last option.

There were five people who wrote in an answer, and four of those thought the district wasn’t being aggressive enough, Lippert said. He said others had brought up the idea of trying to build in more capacity before it was needed.

“We’re trying to balance costs with what the community would be comfortable with, but also what the district can handle in terms of debt load,” he said.

The board also voted 5-0 to approve sending out requests for proposals to construction management companies to handle the elementary school projects.