The new Erik Ramstad Middle School rocket-launched into the community on Thursday afternoon as a dedication ceremony and open house was held to show off the new facility high atop North Hill Minot. Faculty, staff, students, community members and elected officials all gathered in the school gymnasium to officially welcome the school to the neighborhood.
Mark Vollmer, superintendent of Minot Public Schools, opened the ceremony by saying they had come a long way and the road had not been easy, but they were there to celebrate the triumphant return of Erik Ramstad Middle School. There were many individuals in attendance who deserved sincere gratitude, he added, thanking the school board, Governor Jack Dalrymple and First Lady Betsy Dalrymple, U.S. Senator John Hoeven, Elizabeth Hanson representing U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Daryl Lies representing Representative Kevin Cramer, Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman, Erik Ramstad Middle School principal Ione Sautner, representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"We have watched and been a part of Ramstad's story," said Jack Dalrymple in his remarks to the crowd. "We'll never forget the old Ramstad school under water. It's a famous picture and has been shown around the world." He also remembered being in attendance at the first day of school at the Minot City Auditorium in 2011 after the June flood. "Everyone poured in, happy to be in a temporary place," he added. Education was not lost as one might expect when going through the type of "gut-wrenching change" during that time, Dalrymple continued. "That's a great tribute to the teachers and staff." The brand new Erik Ramstad Middle School is a happy ending to an amazing story, he added, and led the crowd in a cheer.
Former Ramstad alumnus Jackie Velk, left, and Senator John Hoeven, right, lead the crowd in singing the school song during the dedication ceremony at the new Erik Ramstad Middle School on Thursday, March 20. Hoeven previously had convened a meeting in Washington, D.C. for state, city and school leaders to meet with FEMA officials to move forward with plans to rebuild the middle school.
Before the dedication ceremony, Hoeven toured the new facility and joined the celebration in the gymnasium. He has been working to secure federal funding for infrastructure damaged by flooding, including $24.5 million for the Erik Ramstad Middle School project. The total project is approximately $36-37 million.
"We're rebuilding and making the Minot community even stronger than it was before the flood," Hoeven said. "Ramstad Middle School is a prime example of the progress we're making. This new school stands as a symbol of the truly bright future that lies ahead for the community."
Hoeven also thanked the students for two years in makeshift classrooms. "You did a great job and you made it work," he said. "You haven't missed a beat since the devastating flood. Here in the Magic City, students, administrators and teachers made it work." Since the day was for celebration, Hoeven said they needed to have a little fun, and led the crowd in more cheers of thanks for those who helped and did a good job. To further continue the fun, Hoeven also brought back an alumnus from Erik Ramstad Middle School, Jackie Velk, who led everyone in singing the "Ramstad Rouser," the official school song.
Heitkamp, who was not in attendance at the day's celebration, was there via letter and said it was a testament of resiliency and resolve of the people of Minot. She toured the facility in January and was impressed by its state-of-the-art quality.
"We have a lot to be proud of and thankful for," added Sautner. "And I couldn't be more proud."
The new Erik Ramstad Middle School is 126,000 square feet and provides classroom space for 720 students, approximately 200 more students than the original building. The new facility is three levels and has a smaller, more cost-effective footprint than the former school, which was a single-level, 102,000 square-foot building.
Classes for Ramstad students were temporarily held in the Minot City Auditorium before students moved into the new building over the Thanksgiving break. Currently, there are approximately 565 students enrolled at Erik Ramstad Middle School. The new facility opened its doors on Dec. 2, 2013.
Vollmer said the new facility was made larger to be equal to the size of Jim Hill Middle School and built with technology in mind. "It's a new home for the Ramstad Rockets, but the recovery is a long process," he continued. "The goal was to get the kids back in the school as quickly as possible."
Erik Ramstad, the namesake of the school, was a big supporter of education, Vollmer said, and he thought Ramstad would look at the new facility and be very proud. "It's an exciting day and we're glad people could be here to celebrate."
The celebration continued with an open house taking place from 4 to 7 p.m. Erik Ramstad Middle School is located at 1215-36th Ave. NW.