The superintendent of a small school district located on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation said she hopes a new school building will improve education in the district.
Residents in Mountrail and McLean counties approved a $5.4 million bond issue to construct a new high school and renovate the elementary school building that comprise Parshall School District, which is located in western North Dakota.
"I think (local residents thought) the new building isn't going to change what goes on inside the building, but, in our case, it's going to change it significantly, because things have changed so much over the last 60 years that the spaces just don't function properly," said district superintendent Beth Schwarz.
The elementary and high school buildings, built in the 1960s, were outdated and had safety and security issues. Last year, an attempt to pass a bond referendum failed, with only receiving 55 percent approval. The bond referendum last month received 74 percent approval.
The difference this year was that district officials had more time to communicate to voters the needs of the schools, according to Schwarz. The local school board took a more active role in the communication, and Schwarz said there was a better understanding among residents about the funding sources for the new school and other improvements.
Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, which is located on the Fort Berthold Reservation, has provided matching funds for the new school.
"MHA Nation graciously, actually, granted us $3.5 million before the referendum even happened," Schwarz said. "I think that just helped some folks who were maybe on the fence."
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MHA Nation will provide an additional $3.5 million later this summer, according to Schwarz. The district will seek out additional funding sources to reach the total $15.2 million needed for the new high school building and the elementary school renovations.
MHA Chairman Mark Fox previously said new school buildings on the reservation are a high priority for the tribe.
Last year, Schwarz's biggest concerns were structural and asbestos at the two school buildings. The bond referendum will include a fire safety system, alarm system and upgraded education spaces at the high school. Additionally, $300,000 of the overall project will be used for urgent renovations in the elementary school building.
Groundbreaking on the new high school is expected around August, Schwarz said.
The high school will be expanded to grades 6-12, Schwarz said. The old high school will be torn down, and the district's long-term goal is to add an elementary school to the new high school building so it is one K-12 building.
Parshall School District student enrollment was 285 in the 2017-18 school year.