MOORHEAD — A $110 million school bond issue here passed by an enormous margin on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
With 12 of 12 precincts reporting late Tuesday, the unofficial result of the Moorhead Area Public Schools special election was 5,458 yes votes (76%) to 1,754 no votes (24%).
"We are very thankful for the support," Moorhead Superintendent Brandon Lunak said late Tuesday, adding that the margin of victory came as something of a surprise. "You hope for something like that, but plan for something different."
Money from the bond issue will go toward building a new high school on the site of the present school and to revamp a former Sam's Club into a career academy. Plans call for the career academy to open in the fall of 2021, while students are expected to move into the new high school in the fall of 2023.
All of the planned work, including the demolition of the current high school, is expected to be completed by the 2024-2025 school year.
Leading up to the election, school officials said there were many reasons the bond issue was necessary, one factor being the frequent changes in floor levels students encounter in the existing high school that was built in the 1960s, an issue particularly difficult for students with wheelchairs, according to school officials.
Another significant need, officials said, was space.
This year’s senior class, expected to number about 450, will be the smallest graduating class for some time, as up-and-coming classes are expected to be much larger. This year’s fourth-grade class, for example, numbers about 608.
The high school now has about 1,860 students in grades 9-12, which puts it at just over its capacity of 1,800.
Referendum dollars will be used to tear down much of the original building and replace it with a new high school that would accommodate 2,200 to 2,400 students.
According to school officials, the issue wasn't simply a lack of space in the current high school, but also the type of space that currently exists as many classrooms are below ground and have no windows.
The bond issue will also fund renovation of a former Sam's Club into a career academy to give students more options when planning for post-graduation careers. The 143,000 square feet of space provided by the former big box store will also help ease space issues at the high school, officials say.
During election day, several election judges around Moorhead described the voter turnout as steady.
"We had a rush about 10:30 (a.m.), and I think we can expect another rush between noon and 1," said Russ Hanson, an election judge manning a polling site at Bethesda Lutheran Church in south Moorhead.
The story was similar at Moorhead City Hall, where election judges Martha Castanon and Richard Wickie were helping guide voters through the process. "It's been kind of steady since we opened this morning," Castanon said.
Wickie agreed. "We haven't had a lull yet," he said just before the noon hour.