South Prairie school board members, administrators, teachers, children and parents held a ground-breaking ceremony Thursday afternoon for a brand new $12 million high school addition.
“Every one of you guys will be able to remember the day we started our high school,” superintendent Wayne Stanley told the kindergarteners through eighth-graders who gathered outside the school to watch the ceremony.
Voters approved a bond issue late last year that will pay for the 48,000-square-foot addition, which is scheduled to be completed by August 2015.
Stanley said the addition is needed, as student numbers have nearly doubled in the last five or six years. Even if the school board had decided not to add a high school to the K-8 school district, Stanley said an elementary would have been needed. There are four portable classrooms in use behind the school and janitor’s closets are being pressed into service as makeshift classrooms. Every grade except fifth grade will have two sections next year. There are 224 students in grades K-8 this year; in five years, Stanley estimates there will be 300 in the elementary alone.
When board members looked at possible projects, they determined that it would be more cost effective to build a $12 million high school and stop paying high school tuition to send South Prairie students to neighboring schools than it would be to build a $4 million elementary addition.
“It was almost a wash,” said Stanley.
The bond issue passed with strong support from the community, which also told Stanley that people were very much in favor of having a new high school.
Stanley, who was administrator at South Prairie for about six years in the late 1990s before leaving for another position, said he had always thought adding a high school would be a good move. However, no other elementary district in the state has added a high school since about the 1920s. Nedrose, another rural K-8 district, will also be adding a high school this year, however.
This year’s seventh and eighth-graders will return to attend the new high school as ninth and 10th graders.
Jackson Lindbo, an eighth-grader, will attend school in Minot for a year before returning to South Prairie. He said he doesn’t think the transition will be difficult since he already knows all the kids.
Lilee Friesen, a seventh-grader, said she’s very happy about the new high school addition and glad that she won’t have to leave the district to attend high school. Lilee said she lives farther away than other students, so going to school at South Prairie means she won’t have such a long ride to school in the morning. South Prairie will also expand its curricular offerings so she will be able to take many of the classes she could have had at another high school. She will also be able to go to school with other kids she knows.
Madison Cooper, also a seventh-grader, echoed Lilee and Jackson, saying that she will be glad to stay in a school setting that she knows.
Stanley said he expects about 50 high school students to attend school in the year 2015-2016, including whatever juniors and seniors choose to return to South Prairie. The high school will likely continue to pick up additional students along with the growth of the area.
South Prairie, located about 10 miles south of Minot, was formed in 1961 when several school districts combined. A gymnasium and classroom addition was added in 2008, but the school outgrew that addition within three years.