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Posted 6/26/13 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Who in the world would have ever dreamed that the day would come in Watford City when our school district would see 1,600 students? Or that the school board would be talking about literally needing more buildings to house all of the students in the district?
That surely wasn’t the case 10 years ago. At that time, the district was so struggling with declining enrollment numbers that the board was actually giving serious thought to closing the elementary school and moving all of the students into the high school.
But the days of declining enrollment are long gone. And as Watford City is experiencing a population boom the likes of which it has never experienced before, the school board is now facing the challenge of what to do with all of the students that will be in the district in the very near future.
According to a new demographic study, which was released last Tuesday, the school district enrollment numbers are projected to very nearly double within the next five years. As of the end of school in May of 2013, the district’s enrollment was 867 students. And by the start of the 2017-18 school year that number could very easily swell to in excess of 1,622 students. And that number of students will mean that Watford City High School will be leaving the ranks of Class B sports and moving up to compete with the Class A schools, like Williston, Minot, Grand Forks, Bismarck and Fargo.
And for the school board that means just one thing. It’s time to get very serious about building at least one new school.
Our existing elementary school and high school will not accommodate the number of students in the coming years. In fact, even though the existing elementary school is undergoing a multi-million dollar expansion and renovation, it will exceed its 625 student capacity by the start of the 2014 school year; and the high school, according to the latest projections, will max out its 500 student capacity in 2014.
Being a part of a growing community poses both challenges and opportunities. And as the new school enrollment projections would indicate, meeting the needs of a growing student population is going to be both of those.