Moorhead digs in

Three classroom wings will be added during the first phase of construction. When students move into them in the 2022-23 school year, the old building will be demolished to make way for the second phase, which includes a theater seating 1,000, a 3,000-seat gymnasium and a pool with room for 300 spectators. Renderings/Zerr Berg Architects.

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

Moorhead school leaders dug into the community’s latest major building project June 2. They came together on the former parking lot north of the high school to break ground for the first phase of the new Moorhead High School – the fourth in the city’s history.

With the Apollo Strings providing a musical interlude and Spuddy bouncing around with a shovel on his shoulder, a dozen-plus representatives of the school board, administration and others involved with the emerging project drove their spades into the hot, dry, rock-hard soil where pilings will soon be drilled deep to support the foundation of the first phase of the project: one three-story and two two-story wings that will house classrooms. The wings extend west, northwest and north of the present school.

That’s Phase 1, expected to be ready for students by the 2023-2024 school year. When student Spuds move into those bright, airy spaces, the building they currently occupy will be demolished to clear the way for Phase II. The entire project is slated for completion for the 2024-2025 school year.

Building the high school will require 1,100 tons of steel. The design includes 11 staircases and 650 doors. Almost one-third of its exterior is windows.

When complete, the new school will be 25% larger than the 1960s-era structure it replaces. The 430,000-square-foot facility has been designed to accommodate 2,100 students, the largest enrollment of any school in the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo area. It will feature a gym that seats 3,000; a 1,000-seat theater; and a pool that accommodates 300 spectators. About 150,000 square feet will be devoted to core academic pursuits, with another 42,000 for performing arts and 95,000 for athletics.

The high school represents the larger portion of the $110 million school bond proposal Moorhead voters approved in 2019. The balance of those funds is underwriting another side of the new high school that’s much closer to completion – the Moorhead Career Academy, where finishing touches are being added this summer before its opening in September. The former Sam’s Club “big box” near I-94 has been redesigned as a training center where high school students and others can explore a variety of vocations, from construction and computer technology to business and the culinary arts.

Plans for the reimagined Moorhead High School emerged after years-long study by three community task forces to lay out the shape of secondary education for the 21st century. When complete, the two facilities – traditional classrooms and career center – are expected to transform the city’s approach to education to prepare youth with the skills, attributes and abilities they need for success after graduation.

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