Northwood (N.D.) Public School $5.85 million addition nearly completed
New auditorium could be the stage for a summer graduation, according to Shane Azure, Northwood Public School superintendent.
NORTHWOOD, N.D. – A $5.85 million addition to Northwood Public School will be completed at the end of the month.
The building project, approved in September 2018 by a three-to-one margin, includes the addition of five classrooms, an auditorium and a stage. The project was approved during a time when many other rural North Dakota schools saw a decline in enrollment, and when similar referendums in other school districts were defeated.
The Northwood Public School referendum resulted in about a $145 increase in annual property taxes for the district’s homes valued at $100,000, and double that amount for homes valued at $200,000. Property taxes on agricultural land increased by about $161 on acreage valued at $100,000 and about $645 on acreage valued at $400,000.
The community and staff understood the need for an addition to alleviate overcrowding and had long wanted a stage to use for school and public events, said Shane Azure, Northwood Public School superintendent.
“We have a staff and school board that are forward thinking, and the community has always supported the school,” he said, noting that former Northwood residents are returning to the community to raise their children, and that has boosted school enrollment.
Enrollment at the K-12 school, which opened in 2009, to replace the previous building destroyed by a tornado in 2007, has grown by nearly 100 students during the past 11 years, Azure said.
Tim Mutchler recently moved back to Northwood with his wife, Jennifer, and their children because the family was impressed that the community opened a new school in 2009, and then voters approved an addition just nine years later.
“We like the idea knowing that the Northwood community was behind the school,” Mutchler said.
“Another thing that drew us to Northwood was the school’s programs. They created an archery program, a robotics program. With the building of the auditorium, there was a push for speech, the arts,’’ he said.
The school enrollment was 229 when it opened 11 years ago, and this year is about 320. Enrollment this fall is expected to be 328, and the next year, is expected to grow to from 335 to 340 students, Azure said. The school was designed for a capacity of 300.
During the past few years, the lunch room, break room and hallways have been used for the overflow of students, he said.
Teachers and students moved into the addition’s five new classrooms after they returned from the holiday break on Jan. 2.
Besides the addition of classrooms, the room that houses the school band and choir was redesigned to make it more user friendly. About half of Northwood Public School grades seven through 12 student population – 68 – are in band and choir.
“Our music and fine arts numbers have exploded the last seven to eight years, and the community and board had always wanted a stage,” Azure said. “The stage led to an auditorium.”
By the end of May, the auditorium and stage will be ready for use by the students and the Northwood community. The 407-person capacity auditorium, which features theater-style seats, will be used for school concerts and plays and for community events, including hosting speakers.
Olivia Schlotman, Northwood Public School band and choir teacher, said she and her students are looking forward to performing in the auditorium.
‘We’re really excited about it,” she said. ”It's just going to be so amazing compared to a gym.”
Schlotman said she believes the audiences also will appreciate the auditorium.
"I think it will be a much more enjoyable way to watch an hour-long concert because they will have a comfy chair to sit on and lights,” she said.
Though the auditorium won't be used for a spring concert, Azure is hopeful students still may have an opportunity to walk across its stage.
“We’re still hoping to utilize it for graduation this summer,” Azure said.
There also are several community events scheduled for the auditorium, but whether those will be held will depend on coronavirus pandemic guidelines.