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Mott-Regent Public Schools getting settled into new elementary school

The new school also features a brand new cafeteria. Sydney Mook / The Dickinson Press1 / 3
Elementary students at Mott-Regent have a brand new place to learn this year. Sydney Mook / The Dickinson Press2 / 3
The new building features a brand new lunchroom, a K-12 library, new computer rooms and new, brighter classrooms for teachers and students. Sydney Mook / The Dickinson Press3 / 3

MOTT—Students at Mott-Regent Public Schools are getting settled into their brand new elementary school, which opened up at the beginning of the school year.

Mott-Regent Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Viola LaFontaine said planning for the new school began before she arrived in the district two years ago. She said, to her understanding, discussions about school security began after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.

"I think the board at the time started talking about the safety of our old school building and that they really needed to do some things to update it for more safety," she said. "Well, then I think they started to find out the poor condition that the school was in and they said, maybe what we need to do is look at building a new school."

A referendum for school construction was brought to voters in 2014. But, the school district's $14.5 million bond referendum failed, as reported by The Dickinson Press in May 2014.

The school board went back to the drawing board and decided that a new elementary school would be both a less costly project and something that was needed more because the elementary school at the time had been built in 1911.

The $8.7 million bond referendum passed with a slim margin, but it made a new elementary school possible for the district. The bond passed just four days after LaFontaine arrived in the district, though she noted she had been attending public meetings to listen to the public's perspective.

"The plans for the building were already in place," she said. "A lot of that had begun prior to me getting here."

During construction, LaFontaine said teachers would sometimes bring their students to learn a practical math lesson. The kids would wear hardhats and talk to some of the construction workers and site leaders about how they use math on a day-to-day basis.

Construction started in August 2016 and finished in August 2017. LaFontaine said construction only delayed school for four days this school year. The project also finished under budget, around $8.6 million.

LaFontaine said everyone, including the teachers, staff, kids, parents and community, is loving the new facility and it has been a big step up from the old elementary school.

LaFontaine said the new building is more secure than the old building. She said she learned that there were many keys to get into the school floating around the community, but now teachers and staff have their own personal fob key to get into the building. LaFontaine said the fob key can even be traced back to a single person, which adds an extra level of security to the building.

Adam Hill, high school principal at Mott-Regent, said the new school is roomier and state-of-the art. He said updating the electrical system is a plus and heating and cooling the elementary school is now easier as well.

He said the walk around the school may be a bit longer now, but they've even managed to turn that into a positive with their wellness program, which allows teachers and staff to have a walk and talk around the school on Wednesdays.

The new building features a brand new lunchroom, a K-12 library, new computer rooms and new, brighter classrooms for teachers and students.

Hill said one of his favorite things about the new school is his office.

"I actually have a nicer sized office. I had a smaller one before," he said. "Being a high school principal, a lot of things get dumped off in your office, so it is very nice to have a new office. It's also just nice to have the administrative offices together in one place. We have a lot more capacity now to have meetings. .. The flexibility in the new building is really nice."

The old elementary school was torn down recently. LaFontaine said it was tough for the community to say goodbye to the school, which was a mainstay in the community for more than 100 years.

"You start seeing those walls come down and you just think of all those kids that learned in that building over the years, but it needed to be torn down," she said.

LaFontaine said some in the community wanted to see the school be used as an apartment building or used for area businesses, but the costs to fix the old building would be too high.

She said different ideas are being thrown around about what to do with the now empty space. One possibility is making a larger parking lot. Another suggestion is to make the space available for sports teams.

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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