Watford City's new state-of-the-art high school opened their doors to students in February 2016.
The new high school is an icon for a community that has experienced the growing pains of a population that increased 10-fold. It’s a symbol of all the hard work and dedication a community put forth to help meet the needs of an ever-expanding student population. A population that was bursting at the seams.
“There will be a lot more space to utilize in the new building,” stated Steve Holen, McKenzie County Public School District #1 superintendent. “And we will be able to hold more events. It will be a building that will reflect 30 years of transition and growth. It’s a building where we get to modernize our approach to how we’re teaching our students today. Over the past 30 years, things have really changed.”
Holen said they were able to make design decisions with the new high school and new construction that would benefit both the students and the staff. One of those design decisions was to have top security.
“The entry to the building will be a controlled entry of which visitors will need to be buzzed into the school itself via the main office,” stated Holen. “This is a major improvement from our current system, and the general location of the office makes for a higher security system compared to the location of the current high school. The classroom doors will be capable of being locked from the inside of the classroom, which is also something that is not possible in the current high school and is important during emergency/lock-down situations.”
With 600 students enrolled in the existing Watford City High School, there is no denying that those students have been feeling cramped in a much smaller space. The existing high school building, built in 1985, is only 120,000 square feet, with a capacity of 500 to 600 students. With that capacity fully maxed out, students are undeniably looking forward to the transition into their new high school facility.
The new high school will boast several features and upgrades including a new full-fledged theatre with an orchestra pit, a larger gym, a student grill area, a student school store, updated Vocational Agriculture and Family Consumer Science Departments, five computer lab classrooms, several commons areas for team teaching and collaboration, several teacher office/working spaces, an extensive amount of parking for both students and staff, and an underground walkway to the new Rough Rider Center.
“Each classroom in the current high school had a SMART board and projector,” stated Holen. “This was replaced with the TV monitors in the new high school. The use of the SMART board in most of the curriculums was similar to the use of a monitor with an Apple TV connection.”
“So we decided to go with monitors, which will provide for better visibility and greater reliability compared to the projectors and boards that would need maintenance over time with bulb replacements and calibration,” added Holen. “Some of the monitors will have an added feature of interactive capability, such as the math department, which also provides the interactive component found with the older SMART boards with the high-quality TV monitor.”
In addition to the 80-inch flat screen TVs in each classroom, another highlight of the new high school is the multi-media room. According to Holen, the room was designed for a larger classroom setting via team teaching and cross-curricular opportunities.
“The room allows for two social studies teachers to jointly teach a unit to students or for a social studies and English teacher to team teach students with a topic relevant to both subject areas,” Holen states. “It is also designed for technology with the built-in outlets and internet connections and potential use of distance learning via an ITV system for students taking classes from other schools.”
Overall, Holen says that the room was designed to bring an element of post-secondary environments to the students that will be going to college after high school, and to provide some of that atmosphere at the high school level. It is a flexible room that has many opportunities for enhancing the education of high school students. The teachers, according to Holen, are very excited about the potential use of the room.
“I’m going to love to go to the new school,” said William Elliot, another seventh grade Watford City High School student. “I can’t wait to play football on the new football field and I can’t wait to be able to play hockey on the new hockey rinks when the Event Center opens next to the school. We’ll be able to play sports year-round. And I’m excited about how big the cafeteria is going to be.”
Along with all the new, updated technology throughout the school and the extra space within the classrooms, the Cardio/weight room, wrestling room, locker room areas, and the Home Ec areas will also be substantially larger, adding to the overall success of the students.
There are some main differences between the new high school building and the old high school building, says Blair. They include more commons areas, a lot of natural light, high ceilings, all LED light fixtures, and an extensive amount of parking.
Once the transition takes place, a crowded 725-student elementary school will become a less-packed building with approximately 550 to 600 students in grades K-3. And there will be about 300 to 350 students in the new high school building.
The long-term goal, according to Holen, is to have the old high school building operate and function as a true middle school, which will serve a middle-level range of students from grades 6-8. But for the time-being, the old high school will become an expanded elementary school for grades 4-6. Plans are already being discussed by the school board regarding a second elementary school so the former high school can become a middle school.
“The high school project is an investment in the youth of our community that will pay dividends for many years to come,” stated Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford. “The kids have put in their dues in crowded classrooms and hallways for the last five years. I am most excited for the fourth and fifth-graders and their teachers who get to move from modulars into the new Intermediate School.”