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South Prairie High School open house tonight

Superintendent Wayne Stanley likes to say South Prairie’s new high school has been 18 or 20 years in the making.

A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at 5:30 p.m. today, followed by a open house and community picnic for all of the people who worked to make the school a reality.

North Dakota Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Kirsten Baesler will attend the ceremony this afternoon. But 20 years ago, Stanley said, the K-8 school district couldn’t get the support of DPI to build a new high school. In the 1990s, there were concerns about declining student enrollment and whether there would be enough students for another high school.

At one time, Minot’s graded elementaries South Prairie, Nedrose and Bell discussed banding together and building a high school. That didn’t work out either. Bell eventually joined with the Minot Public School District and South Prairie and Nedrose remained separate school districts.

But a lot has changed in 15 years, said Stanley. This year both South Prairie and Nedrose will have completed high schools.

At South Prairie, Stanley said there about 127 students enrolled 14 years ago in K-8 and the district was celebrating reaching nearly 130 students. Last spring there were 247 students enrolled in grades K-8. Stanley had estimated that the school might have about 310 students with the addition of the new high school this fall. Now the number of students expected is even higher.

“We’re pushing at 350,” he said.

Stanley said South Prairie has received a number of open enrollment requests for students from Minot and other surrounding school districts. The district is still taking open enrollments, depending on whether there is enough room at a particular grade level. Stanley said he thinks some of the open enrollments come from private schools in Minot, where parents might be attracted by a small school setting at South Prairie and no longer having to pay private school tuition. Others may have been attracted to South Prairie because they felt lost in a larger school setting. One girl was hesitant to switch schools as a high school student. Then Stanley gave her a tour of the new high school and she saw the brand new high school science lab.

“She said, ‘This is the science lab? Mom, I’m coming!”’ said Stanley.

High school students will have their own laptops. All of the new classrooms have smart boards and some have desks that are designed differently to allow students to stand at desks or adjust desks to different heights or push desks together to work in groups. Stanley said students in the math work room all learn a little bit differently. Stanley himself prefers to stand at a desk when he’s working on something.

The new school football field and track was still under construction last week but Stanley said it will be completed some time this school year. For the next few years, the district will co-op with Bishop Ryan High School for football and several other sports. Stanley said the high school gym will not be completed until early September, but it should be done before the school’s first home basketball game. South Prairie also has another gym.

Stanley said it’s exciting to see the school finally completed. It is a sign that some dreams do eventually come true.