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Hagen Junior High is running out of rooms

Press Photo by Katherine Grandstrand Hagen Junior High students cross a snowy Fourth Street West on Thursday as they walk between classes at the junior high and Berg Elementary. Hagen, the oldest school in the Dickinson Public School District, doesn’t have the space to accommodate the school’s growing enrollment.1 / 2
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The student body at Hagen Junior High is quickly outgrowing its space.

With nearly 450 seventh- and eighth-grade students in the district’s oldest school, many students must cross Fourth Street West to attend some classes.

“They have probably a 200-yard walk over to the far door from our door,” Hagen Principal Marcus Lewton said. “It’s just because we don’t have space at Hagen. Our rooms are full.”

As the district’s enrollment increases in the lower grades, and more families move into Dickinson and stay, enrollment at the junior high isn’t predicted to drop anytime soon.

“If we didn’t absolutely have to, we wouldn’t make some of these decisions,” Superintendent Doug Sullivan said. “Given the current environment in the community and the school district with our rapidly increasing population, we’re forced to face some issues and make some difficult choices.”

There could be anywhere from 550 to 600 students in the seventh and eighth grades by the fall of 2017, according to projections by North Dakota State University and Dickinson Public Schools. In fall 2008, before the oil boom began affecting Dickinson, Hagen began the school year with 373 total students.

“We know that the enrollment at Hagen is going to increase,” Sullivan said.

If enrollment trends continue, Berg could run out of extra space as well, Lewton said.

History repeating

This isn’t the first time Hagen has overflowed. During the last oil boom in the 1980s, students were crossing over to Berg not only for class, but for lunch, Lewton said. At that time, a gate was put up to stop traffic from passing in front of the school, ensuring student safety while crossing the street.

“We have marshals that, in between class periods, they watch the kids come across — one at Berg and one at Hagen,” Lewton said. “They make sure that they’re using the crosswalk and make sure that they make it across safely.”

The kids traveling between the buildings during class are the ones that worry Lewton the most, because the marshals can’t watch the students all day.

If the gate were to be utilized again, it would close off a small portion of the street directly in front of the school, allowing traffic through the alleys, Lewton said. It would be blocked during the school day, from student drop-off to pick-up.

“Education has changed in 20 years,” Lewton said. “We’re trying to pack all that into an older building and it’s difficult. We didn’t have the computer labs 20 years ago. They didn’t have those that we need now. We didn’t have supplemental programs.

Decision for the future

Hagen was built in 1935 as Dickinson Central High School and has had several remodels and additions throughout the years.

The district is hosting a series of community planning workshops led by the DLR Group, a Minneapolis-based architecture firm, to help it decide which direction it should go in the future.

“We have growth and we have some aging buildings, and we have to kind of continue to creatively think of how we’re going to solve those combinations of problems and do it in a systematic way over the next 10, 20, 30 years,” DLR Group principal Chris Gibbs said. “It’s looking at it long-range, and not thinking about the next two or three years, but trying to think about moving the district in the direction they want it to go, and then creating a plan that will allow that to happen.”

The first planning group was held in December on a night with less-than-ideal attendance due to weather.

“If we can capture a bigger audience and understand who’s there a little bit better, and have a better representation and an understanding of what the representation is from a community-wide standpoint, we may have them answer a few questions and then gather that information to be able to calculate that, and pull that all together for the board in the future,” Gibbs said.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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