DGF school projects are moving forward

Superintendent Shannon Hunstad, who took over the DGF School District three weeks ago, says that despite a Covid-related delay, construction is well on its way. The Dilworth-based elementary and Glyndon-based middle and high school will be open in Fall 2022. (Photo Nancy Hanson)

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

In a perfect world, students in Dilworth, Felton and Glyndon would be a month away from a new school year with a brand-new look. They’d be soon to hit the books in updated schools virtually gleaming after a top-to-bottom $42 million facelift.

But that’s not the world we live in.

Instead, after those best-laid plans were scrambled by a more than a year of pandemic pandemonium, the district’s ambitious schedule for enlarging, remodeling and reconfiguring its facilities has been pushed back. Work is well underway in both Dilworth and Glyndon, says Superintendent Shannon Hunstad. But students will carry on for the coming year amidst pounding, pouring and preparing the new additions that will revolutionize the Rebels’ landscape.

Hunstad, who took the district’s reins on July 1, is not exactly a new face. “I taught elementary physical education in Glyndon for nine years,” the Argyle, Minnesota, native explains. After graduating from Minnesota State University Moorhead with a degree in physical education, he taught first in Cottage Grove. He left Dilworth for Pillager, Minnesota, where he taught and served as activities director and dean of students for 11 years. Five years followed as superintendent in Lancaster, Minnesota, before he was chosen last winter to replace retiring DGF superintendent Bryan Thygeson.

“Overall, the transition has been very positive,” he comments. “The staff and the school board have been welcoming. There are a lot of positive people here.” And familiar faces, too … at least 20 of his new colleagues remain from his days as a teacher.

The pounding, pouring and progress that’s been going on this summer stems from the school district’s successful passage of a $31.5 million bond issue in 2019. On its second try, the school board won approval of an ambitious plan to increase security, increase equity in educational opportunity for all its 1,300 students, and modernize its aging buildings, adding state-of-the-art media centers at both sites. The total bill for the entire project is $40.5 million; the school board plans to make up the difference from a variety of sources.

The biggest change for which the district is preparing is consolidating kindergarten through grade four on its Dilworth campus. Fifth graders will become part of the new middle school. Grades five through eight will be co-located with DGF High School in Glyndon instead of the middle school that now shares the Dilworth building with elementary classes.

While high schoolers will continue in the same location as today – albeit with a brand-new competition gymnasium and media center – the change will be felt in the lower grades. Glyndon Elementary now accommodates kindergarten through grade five; the district’s much larger K-5 elementary program is taught in Dilworth. With the move to assign fifth graders to middle school, elementary classes will occupy the entire school in Dilworth, along with special education and other support services and a newly built wing for district offices. DGF has a total of 1,300 students, including 200 who attend through open enrollment.

While the 2019 bond issue passed by a comfortable margin of 54% to 46% of voters, Hunstad notes that creating a culture of collaboration is vital to moving the district forward.

“We are optimistic about the future,” the superintendent says. “The projects are designed to accommodate our needs well into the future. After jumping from 2010 to 2015 with all the new houses that have been built here, our numbers right now are at a healthy, stable level.” In addition to expanding and adapting its own facilities, collaboration with Moorhead on the Career Academy (which opens this fall) adds a wide range of vocational and career classes without impact on the DGF building census.

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