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OUR OPINION: Time to give school vote a rest

Frustration in the town of Thompson seems to be at high levels these days. Evidently, many residents and school officials are frustrated they cannot generate enough support for an expansion of the town's school facilities. Others are frustrated t...

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Frustration in the town of Thompson seems to be at high levels these days.

Evidently, many residents and school officials are frustrated they cannot generate enough support for an expansion of the town's school facilities. Others are frustrated that supporters continue to put the issue on a ballot, despite it being voted down four times now.

First, we say this: We support the proposal and always have. Had it passed, the latest version would have set in motion a renovation to the school that would have cost $10 million. With enrollment increases estimated as high as 11 percent by 2020, it appears students will be learning in cramped quarters in the district whose borders begin just south of Grand Forks.

The project would have added classrooms, a career and technical education wing and a gym while repurposing other areas of the school. That sounds pretty good to us. It also sounds necessary, if enrollment projections play out.

Meanwhile, cost of the expansion would have to be shouldered by residents who live in the Thompson School District. Specifically, it would have meant a $260 annual tax increase on a $100,000 home and an increase of $2.84 per acre for ag-based land. That kind of increase is proving too steep.

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Last week's election brought out 1,234 voters, and 52 percent were in favor. This kind of vote requires 60 percent before it can be approved.

That's the bugaboo. Although a super-majority is needed for the project, 60 percent approval cannot be reached in Thompson. Yet since a majority of Thompson residents approve, it's no wonder the proposal has been presented four times in four years.

Despite the majority opinion (and that of the Herald), it's time to give it a rest. We were glad to read that Superintendent John Maus said it appears to be a dead issue for now. Pushing it to another vote in the coming months just wouldn't be right, considering results of the previous four elections.

It wouldn't be fair to the residents who aren't in favor of the expansion.

"I'm so ... irritated about it that I can't even tell you about it," Thompson resident Troy Marsh told the Herald last week. "It's almost like little spoiled brats that are being crybabies that they didn't get their way."

Others probably feel the same way, and the number will continue to grow each time a school expansion comes to a vote. Eventually, the morale and camaraderie within the district will disintegrate.

It's not worth it, and especially in a small community.

We say some sort of school project must eventually be done in Thompson. It's a clean, quiet community that lies just eight miles from Grand Forks. As Grand Forks grows and deals with its well-documented housing issues, Thompson will correspondingly grow.

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Thompson will need more room for the additional students who inevitably will attend classes there.

But it is time to give the issue a break - at least for a few years. Maybe by then, hard enrollment facts - instead of projections - will help grow support.

Until then, repeated elections will only erode any support that remains.

It's best to leave it alone for now.

- Korrie Wenzel for the Herald

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Related Topics: THOMPSONEDUCATION
Opinion by Korrie Wenzel
Korrie Wenzel has been publisher of the Grand Forks Herald and Prairie Business Magazine since 2014.

He is a member of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. board of directors and, in the past, has served on boards for Junior Achievement, the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, United Way, Empire Arts Center, Cornerstones Career Learning Center and Crimestoppers.


As publisher, Wenzel oversees news, advertising and business operations at the Herald, as well as the newspaper's opinion content.



Wenzel can be reached at 701-780-1103, or via Twitter via @korriewenzel.
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