Posted 2/23/16 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
Monday, Feb. 15, was the day that Steven Holen, McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 superintendent, has been anxiously waiting 18 months to arrive. But then Holen wasn’t the only person who couldn’t wait for Watford City’s new high school to be completed and ready for its first day of classes. So were the students and teachers who would be calling this $53 million, 167,672-square foot school their new home, as well as the entire Watford City community.
“Welcome to your new Watford City High School,” stated Holen as he welcomed state and federal officials, students and community members during Monday’s dedication ceremonies. “It has been an amazing journey. And we are in the position to be one of the best schools in the state and the nation. And that is our goal.”
Like a proud new father, Holen was beaming with pride inside the new school that sits prominently on a hill on Watford City’s east side next to the soon-to-be completed Watford City Events Center. The new high school stands as a testament to Watford City’s tenacity to meet the challenges of this city’s unprecedented growth.
“We started the process of this new school on June 18, 2013, when the school board recognized the need for a new high school to meet our growing enrollment numbers,” stated Holen. “Thanks to a 90 percent ‘yes’ vote on a school bond issue by school district patrons, we were able to proceed with the building process. And today, we are ready to hand the best building that we could build over to the students and the community who deserve it.”
And the school district’s and community efforts didn’t go unnoticed by North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, or other state and federal leaders who were on hand to help in the celebration.
“Way to go Watford City,” exclaimed Dalrymple. “This place is amazing. Your county, city and school are so connected in the way that you get things done.”
According to Dalrymple, Watford City has been the fastest growing community in the nation. And the state of North Dakota has been working with city, county and school leaders to help provide funding for critical infrastructure needs to help meet the city’s growth.
“The state has provided $14.4 million in loans and grants to help with the construction of this new school,” stated Dalrymple. “And since 2011, Watford City has received $38.7 million in state oil impact grants - the most of any city in North Dakota.”
But Dalrymple wasn’t the only state and city official who had nothing but praise to sing of Watford City’s new high school.
“This is quite a day,” stated Brent Sanford, Watford City mayor, who has helped guide the city’s population growth from 1,400 six years ago to over 7,500 residents today. “We have all generations here today.”
According to Sanford, the school district’s growth has rivaled that of Watford City’s.
“We have over 1,200 students enrolled in our school district today,” stated Sanford. “Six years ago, we only had 500 students.”
And for Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota school superintendent, the new high school was all about educating students of today and tomorrow.
“When we think about the learning that will take place as we go through the classrooms, there is just unlimited opportunity for our students to become the next engineer, or the scientist who discovers the cure for cancer,” stated Baesler. “The next North Dakota governor could be educated within these walls, and possibly even be the next president of the United States.”
Monday’s dedication ceremonies of the new high school was the culmination of 18 months of construction work by 52 subcontractors who spent over 500,000 man-hours to bring the project to fruition. The high school, which was designed to accommodate 800 students, opened its doors for classes on Tuesday, Feb. 6.