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Watford City’s move to Class A sports may be in question

Posted 10/13/15 (Tue)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

With high school enrollment numbers remaining in flux as a result of the slowdown in oil activity in western North Dakota, McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 administrators are wondering if now is the right time for Watford City High School to be making the move to Class A sports.
“Last year, Watford City High School had 329 students in grades 9-12,” states Steve Holen, district superintendent. “At that time, our high school was above the 325 student threshold that required us to begin the two-year transition to Class A sports.”
At that time, Holen and the district’s school board was confident that the high school numbers would continue to increase and that Watford City High School would remain above that 325 student threshold.
But with high school enrollment numbers now dropping below that magic number, Holen and his board wonder if now is the right time to make the move. Or more importantly, if the North Dakota High School Activities Association (NDHSAA) will consider keeping Watford City High School at the Class B level.
“As of Oct. 7, our enrollment in grades 9-12 was 319 students, which is below the 325 student threshold for being a Class A school for sports,” states Holen.
Part of Watford City’s dilemma as to whether or not its high school enrollment number is above or below  325 students is what date does the NDHSAA look at in making its determination. Watford City’s problem is further complicated because of co-op sports agreements that the high school has with Alexander High School and Johnson Corners Christian Academy.
“Our problem is that right now we are below the 325 number based just on our high school student count,” states Holen. “But when we include the two co-op programs which add an additional 50 students, we are above the 325 number.”
According to Holen, the school board is giving serious consideration to eliminating the two co-op agreements if that action allows Watford City High School to remain at the Class B level.
“Based on our new high school enrollment numbers, our school board members are hearing from the community that they want us to stay at the Class B level,” stated Holen. “And if staying at the Class B level means that the board has to dissolve our co-op programs, I believe that is something our board will consider.”
According to Holen, dissolving the co-op sports agreements with Alexander High School and Johnson Corners Christian Academy will be on the board’s agenda for its upcoming Oct. 19 meeting.
The school district has also asked the NDHSAA to consider Watford City’s situation at its Oct. 21 board meeting.
“If the NDHSAA says that our fall high school enrollment number was above the 325 student threshold without the co-ops, the discussion is moot and we will continue to move to Class A sports,” states Holen. “However, if they say that our enrollment was below that number, our board will have to consider dissolving the two co-op agreements to stay at the Class B level.”
JLG hired as architects for
possible new elementary school
While the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 is not officially moving forward with plans to construct a new elementary school, the school board has hired an architectural firm to help with design plans.
During a special board meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 7, the board hired JLG to begin preliminary design work for a new elementary school.
“Based on the increasing enrollment at our elementary school, we know that we may have to be looking at the construction of a new elementary school,” states Holen. “With the hiring of JLG, the district can begin to work on pre-design concepts and the hiring of a construction manager in order to get good cost estimates.”
According to Holen, the board will be receiving new enrollment projections at its January board meeting, and will then be in a position to determine whether or not to proceed with the construction of an additional elementary school.
“There is no project yet to build a new elementary school,” states Holen. “But hiring an architect and getting cost estimates is a good position for us to be in if we decide to move forward with a new school.”