You have to give it up to Highland School. Seriously, you do. Sure, it’s just a brick-and-mortar structure, so it doesn’t have feelings or emotions or anything like that.

    But the school deserves praise today, a pat on the back, for its continued ability to be reconfigured and transformed every once in a while to best serve the needs of a changing student body that is educated within its walls.

    Maybe School Board Chair Frank Fee put it best earlier this week, when Highland Principal Chris Trostad led board members on a tour of the school, which in the fall will for the first time welcome first graders to its first-through-sixth-grade configuration, and, as part of that latest change, has undergone extensive renovations over the summer.

    “This has to be the best school we ever built,” Fee said, “considering how many times it’s been reconfigured.”

    Highland was built almost 50 years ago, and it was considered new-age at the time. Its academic areas were oddly shaped and floor-to-ceiling walls were few and far between...with the more traditional classroom way of thinking ditched in favor of a more open, middle-school concept featuring an abundance of portable partitions.

    It was Highland Middle School back in those days, home to sixth through eighth grade. Soon, as neighborhood elementary schools continued to close their doors, fifth graders were added to the school, and soon after that, seventh and eighth graders left, moved to Central High School downtown. No longer a middle school, Highland’s focus began to shift into more of an elementary school, and the movable partitions gave way to walls constructed from the floor to the ceiling and more enclosed classroom settings.

    Last spring, when the 2018-19 school year ended, school board members knew Highland was going to undergo another round of renovations, with some new flooring, new lockers, and locker room bays being removed in favor of classrooms and more useful spaces. But it’s safe to say that as Trostad led them on their tour highlighting Highland’s latest evolution, they were unaware of just how extensive the work at the school over the summer in preparation for the 2019-20 school year starting next week was going to be. They were pleasantly surprised...wowed, even.

    A lot of dedicated staff put it a lot of long hours to make the physical changes, and relocated teachers are once again showing their flexibility and willingness to change.

    But at the heart of all this is a building, Highland School. Perhaps it is the best school ever built in Crookston.