Full house for Binford, N.D., schoolhouseA classic red brick schoolhouse will come back to life in the fall, more than a decade after closing its doors. Attached to the newer Midkota Elementary School building through an enclosed lower-level walkway, the old building will help alleviate crowded conditions sparked by a mini-enrollment explosion in Midkota School District.
By: By Kevin Bonham, Forum News Service, The Jamestown Sun
BINFORD, N.D. — A classic red brick schoolhouse will come back to life in the fall, more than a decade after closing its doors.
Attached to the newer Midkota Elementary School building through an enclosed lower-level walkway, the old building will help alleviate crowded conditions sparked by a mini-enrollment explosion in Midkota School District.
“It’s a nice problem to have,” School Board President Keith Johnson said. “It’s always nice to have to do something because of more students.”
The old school, which opened in about 1920, closed in 2000.
The overcrowding forced the district to move this year’s pre-kindergarten class, with more than a dozen students, to Bethel Lutheran Church in this western Griggs County community of 183.
Still, the school is using every nook and cranny.
The music room has become a multi-use destination as the teacher workroom and as home to the elementary after-school program.
The special needs class has moved into what used to be a sports-equipment room adjacent to the gymnasium.
In addition, the school library now does double-duty as the sixth-grade classroom.
“We started the year with six kids in sixth grade. Now we have 10,” said Assistant Principal Pam Adrian, who also is a third-grade teacher.
The Midkota district, which covers some 600 square miles in western Griggs and northeastern Foster counties, is comprised of five east-central North Dakota communities: Binford, Glenfield, Grace City, McHenry and Sutton.
The high school is in Glenfield, while the only elementary school is in Binford.
The K-6 enrollment has grown steadily over the past four years. Here are the numbers:
• 2009-2010: 53.
• 2010-2011: 63.
• 2011-2012: 69.
• 2012-2013: 76.
The increase appears to be an anomaly.
While there is some anecdotal evidence of people moving into the region as a result of the booming Oil Patch region of western North Dakota, neighboring school districts have not seen enrollment increases.
Carrington School District, which adjoins Midkota to the west, has 265 K-6 students, about the same as last year, and 526 overall in K-12, according to Superintendent Brian Duchscherer.
“We haven’t seen any increase in our numbers,” he said, adding that K-12 enrollment is down about 10 from last year.
Enrollment in Cooperstown School District, to the east, has declined gradually over the past 20 years, from a record of about 500 in K-12 in 1993 to about 240 to 245 for the past few years, according to Superintendent Wade Faul.
Johnson said he doesn’t think there is any single factor for the enrollment surge at Midkota.
“I think part of it’s because of some people who have moved into the area from out of state, some because of the oil field,” Johnson said, “but there’s more to it.”
He also attributes it to a larger-than-average group of district residents who, like himself, are in their late 30s and have families with three or four children.
The Midkota School Board considered purchasing a portable building or remodeling the old school. The red brick schoolhouse option prevailed.
The project will include roof and plumbing work and some classroom remodeling, said Johnson, adding that the roof repairs probably would have been necessary regardless of the board’s decision.
“The community would hate to see the old school torn down,” Adrian said.