Principal Chris Trostad leads them on a tour of renovated school, which will welcome first graders for the first time next week.
When the 2018-19 school year ended last spring, members of the Crookston School Board knew that first-graders in the 2019-20 school year would be moving from Washington School to Highland School and that, over the summer, Highland would be undergoing some changes in order to best accommodate its newest and youngest students.
Mostly, the changes would involve some locker bay space being converted to classroom space, some new lockers would be purchased, and some high-traffic hallways would be getting new flooring.
But when board members on Monday were led on a tour of Highland by its principal, Chris Trostad, they saw a school that is vastly different from what it was last spring. Since classes ended last spring, Trostad (a former industrial technology teacher), current Industrial Technology teacher Travis Oliver, and school custodial/maintenance staff led by Ken Winger have been knocking down walls and erecting new ones all over inside the school. And in addition to all of the obvious structural changes, Trostad, the teachers and staff have reconfigured grade locations in the school and spatial uses to better fit student and staff needs.
Trostad said that, to his knowledge, all but one teacher in the school will be in a different location in the fall than they were last spring.
When students arrive next week, fifth and sixth graders will be located predominantly on one end of the school and have locker bays with locks, while first through fourth graders will occupy the other end of the school, where hallways are lined with hundreds of new, navy blue lockers, which will not be equipped with locks. New and reconfigured spaces for special education students and students with other special needs are located in closer proximity than they were previously, and this includes a space for the school’s new “gifted and talented” program.
Although the lockers in the space certainly have a lot of miles on them, Trostad noted that Highland will now have athletic locker rooms for both home and visiting teams when the school hosts various sporting events.
As for the hallways and their new floor surface, it now features the Pirate mascot head.
There is still some trim work to be done, and several teachers in the school still have considerable unpacking to do in their new locations. But, even so, board members were mightily impressed with what they saw on their Highland tour.
“This is a massive amount of work, and the people involved in making it happen should be commended for their tremendous job,” board member Dave Davidson said.
Noting that the school looks almost better today than when it was brand new back in the 1970s, board member Tim Dufault said, “It’s incredible what you guys have done.”
Highland was initially constructed to be a new-age, open-concept middle school for sixth through eighth grade. But as neighborhood elementary schools closed over the years and grades were configured and reconfigured on multiple occasions by various school district administrations over time, Highland evolved into what it is today: A much less open-concept building home to younger students.
Board Chair Frank Fee made a point to praise the school’s ability to stand the test of time during all of those changes. “This has to be the best building we ever built,” he said, “considering how many times we’ve reconfigured it.”