The Roundup -

Watford City Plans To Have New Elementary School Ready By Fall Of 2020


October 9, 2019 | View PDF

The oil and gas industry continues to attract more and more new families to Watford City, and with that, the population of students continues to increase. The McKenzie County school district’s growing enrollment rate has so far required the expansion of the existing elementary school in 2012 and the construction of a 53 million dollar high school in 2016 and now requires an additional elementary school.

“Our current Kindergarten through 5th-grade student population is approximately 1,035 students - which clearly shows a need for two elementary buildings as we transition to a more defined K-5 (2), 6-8, and 9-12 student building configuration,” explained Dr. Steven Holen, Superintendent of Schools for McKenzie County District No. 1. 

In order to accommodate Watford City’s growing student population, a new elementary school is being built in the Fox Hills development and close to the new Watford City High School. 

The building is expected to be ready for students and teachers by the start of the 2020 - 2021 school year. The current budget is $35 million as per the bond referendum. It will be two stories high and approximately 90,000 square feet. It is expected to have a student capacity of 600 students, which will require many teachers. “We will be splitting our current grade levels with the new facility, and we expect 35 to 40 teachers and typical support positions to operate the new school. Not all positions will be new as teachers will transition to the new facility from current facilities – new positions will be based on student growth and section needs for the 2020 - 2021 school year,” stated Holen.

When Holen was asked what would be the biggest challenge for the project, he explained that timing will be a big challenge. “As we account for weather conditions in completing the project on time.  We are confident in our current timeline and hoping for a mild winter to assist with the current timeline and in getting the building enclosed before major winter conditions. However, we are expecting a slightly later start to the school year than in previous years,” said Holen.

Holen expects to see the student population to grow increasingly over the next years. According to the McKenzie County School District No. 1 Enrollment Projections, the district enrollment will increase from the current student population of 1,958 to 3,798 students by the beginning of the 2028-2029 school year. 

Although the student population is expected to increase, the new elementary school will suit the needs of the growing student population as of now. Holen explained, “The new elementary school will help meet the growing enrollment and educational needs of our community with features such as collaborative learning spaces, up to date special education, building security, and bus/parent drop off.” The McKenzie County School District No. 1 will have two K-5 elementary schools, one 6-8 middle school, and one 9-12 high school to start off the 2020-2021 school year at Watford City.


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