WILLISTON -- The $70 million Williston High School has opened its doors.
Teachers moved into the 225,000-square-foot building earlier this month, but their 1,200 students arrived this week to find 50 classrooms designed with technology in mind.
The three-story school was built on almost 40 acres to accommodate growth, as enrollment has climbed by about 40 percent in the past few years with no letup in sight, according to Superintendent Michael Campbell.
He said early enrollment figures show 465 new students have enrolled in grades K-12. With 3,678 students last September, he said he expects the district to surpass the 4,000 mark this fall.
“We might need another elementary school,” he said, which “is and isn’t a surprise.”
Despite the slowdown in the oil fields surrounding the city, with many single, younger workers leaving the area, many families have stayed.
Not only that, he said, but there about 500 job openings in the city -- and “they are good jobs, too.”
The new high school may or may not be big enough, he said half-jokingly. It is the new jewel in the school district, though, with banks of glass windows offering spectacular views.
And everything is new, from the gymnasium to the field turf on the football field to the Coyote Cafe, featuring signs that tell students to “Relax” and “Enjoy.”
The school also has a “bring your own device” system, with the entire school wired.
For the first time, the high school is offering vocational courses in meat-cutting, diesel mechanics and oil production prep classes. Campbell said students taking the oil classes can go directly to work in the oil fields after high school if they so desire, as the program is certified.
Students got their first look at the sparkling new school this week.
Paige O’Neill and Kailey Woodhams, both seniors, went in on Tuesday to locate their classrooms ahead of the first-day chaos on Wednesday. Both girls had positive opinions on the new building, saying they liked the sleek look.
“I like how the desks are all the same; it makes the school look more pulled together and organized,” Woodhams said, adding that the size of the three-story structure will take some getting used to.
“I think it’s just a little bit more confusing than our old school,” she said.
O’Neill pointed out that the additional space seems to have eliminated the need for shared rooms.
“Every teacher has their own classroom here,” she said.
The school is divided into three main sections: one for art, music, theater and administration; one for the gym; and one for the classrooms.
On Tuesday morning, Elizabeth Eslinger, 14, knelt in the hall by her locker, figuring out how to work the lock. When asked her thoughts on the new school, her response was one word: “Big.”