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Northwood School District looks to expand

Northwood (N.D.) Superintendent Shane Azure stands at the proposed site of a building project at the school. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

While other rural school districts are struggling from low enrollment numbers, Northwood Public School is looking for more space.

A Sept. 25 public vote will decide whether the district will receive $5.8 million to expand its building footprint. The proposal would add five new rooms and an auditorium, and renovate two classrooms to make better use of existing space.

A tornado tore apart the original building in 2007, and the current structure opened two years later. Enrollment was 229 then, but has since jumped 39 percent to 319. Superintendent Shane Azure said the reconstructed building only was designed to house 300 students and now is overcrowded.

Most of the $12.7 million reconstruction was paid for by the North Dakota State Fire and Tornado Fund and FEMA. School Board member Erik Thorsgard said the district opted not to build an auditorium initially because it would have been an additional cost for families trying to rebuild after the tornado.

Azure said it makes sense to build an auditorium and new classrooms at the same time. He said 59 percent of students in fifth through 12th grades are in band or choir. Performances currently take place inside the gymnasium.

Keith Groven, a parent of two Northwood Elementary students, said the setup is “certainly not ideal” and keeps Northwood from reaching its full potential. Thorsgard said theater programs aren’t held at the school because the lack of performance space makes it almost impossible.

Azure said the space also would be used for educational activities and community gatherings.

The School Board has hosted several public feedback meetings about the project. Thorsgard said there was some resistance to the cost, but he expects the community to support the referendum.

Under the proposal, a residential homeowner will pay an additional $145 per year for a property valued at $100,000. Agricultural land valued at $100,000 will cost an extra $161 per year in taxes.

A public information meeting is set for 7 p.m. Sept. 19. Early voting began Aug. 16 and will continue through Sept. 24. Election Day voting is set for 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 25 in the Northwood Community Center. For more information, log on to www.northwoodk12.com/building-project.

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