WATFORD CITY — Every building has a story and the first pages have been turned for the new $53 million Watford City High School.
“The story of this building has only just begun. The miracle of learning will go on in these walls for generations," state school Superintendent Kirsten Baesler, at the dedication held Monday, told the hundreds packed into the soaring concourse just inside the main entrance.
Baesler and others were bathed in the natural light that filled the building and, if illumination enhances knowledge, the 500 students who start classes there have a bright future, indeed.
The school is perhaps the most emblematic new structure of Watford City’s dynamic growth and stands for its hopes for the future and for all the children — native residents and newcomers — who will pass through its doors.
Brea Jore and Asha Smith, class of 2016, were chosen to represent the student body at the speakers' podium.
“It’s so exciting to be one of the Wolves (school mascot). We get to start fresh,” Jore said.
“I feel like the students are really going to succeed here with all the windows and natural light. It’s proven that test scores go up with all the natural light,” Smith said.
After the speeches and official ribbon cutting, hundreds of people wandered through the building, getting a feel for the layout, where each floor is arranged around a collaborative learning concept, as visionary an ideal in education as all the light coming in. The new gym is a standout feature, as is the glass-encased library, the performance theater and the art room with its north-facing exposure.
The 160,000-square-foot building may not have as many feet of glass going vertical as floor going horizontal, but head custodian Nick Segneri was already pondering the job of keeping it sparkling.
“It’s going to take lots of Windex,” said Segneri, noting the lighting is a “daylight harvesting” design, with an automatic eye that can dial the wattage up or down depending on outside conditions.
School board president Pam Ramage was practically floating through the halls, greeting patrons and fielding the many compliments on the school’s design.
“It’s a huge accomplishment” for the community that went to bat for a property tax levy and for the design and build crews, she said.
The board will catch its breath, conduct a student survey in the spring and decide whether to move into the building mode again with a second elementary building for an estimated $20 million.
“We’re not in a rush. We’ll see what our growth looks like come spring," she said.
For now, it’s time to settle into a high school that brightens up a high hillside overlooking the town.
“We're in the position to be one of the best school districts in the state if not the country. We’re not going to look back; we’re going to do our community proud," Steve Holen, the school's superintendent, told the crowd.