A look at the history of public school buildings in Moorhead from 1960-1974
March 12, 2019
Student population in Moorhead Area Public Schools increased from 3,939 in 1958 to 7,539 in 1968. This substantial growth led to several new building projects and remodels during this period. In 1960 the following elementary schools were open and in use: Georgetown, Sabin, Hopkins (first ward), Lincoln, Washington, Sharp, Park, Riverside and Edison. All junior high students in 1960 went to either North or South Junior Highs. The high school students used both the building on 8th Street, which was referred to as the West Building (Townsite), and Central Junior High, which was referred to as the East Building.
In the early 1960s, the city of Moorhead’s growth was to the south where Interstate Highway 94 would be built. The district owned three tracts of land in south Moorhead, and the School Board spent several years deciding which location would be the best to build a new elementary school. Up for consideration was a lot in the Morningside area, a lot just north of the Moon-Lite Drive-In movie theatre (on Highway 75 across from the current Hornbacher’s), and a lot on the southeast corner of 24th Avenue and 14th Street South. The School Board decided on the latter, and Probstfield Elementary School, today’s Probstfield Center for Education, opened in the fall of 1966. This would be the last elementary school built in Moorhead until 2004 when S.G. Reinertsen Elementary opened.
In addition to needing another building to house elementary students, the district was looking to increase the number of classrooms in its current buildings. In January 1960, the district passed a building referendum to add on to several elementary schools. This remodeling project resulted in 42 elementary classrooms (16 at Edison, 16 at Washington, 10 at Riverside) and a small gym (Park School) being built.
The board passed a resolution in the spring of 1967 stating the district would begin offering kindergarten as part of its curriculum beginning in the fall of 1967. Up until that time all instruction in kindergarten was offered through local daycares, churches, or the preschool program at Moorhead State Teachers College (now MSUM). During the initial year of offering kindergarten, there was a severe shortage of classroom space requiring the majority of kindergarten classes to be held off site at Sabin Catholic Church, Georgetown Lutheran, Good Shepherd, Trinity Lutheran and Our Redeemer Lutheran.
A bond referendum passed in December 1968 provided kindergarten classrooms in most elementary schools. Edison, Lincoln and Riverside received two rooms each. Sharp and Sabin each received one, and Washington received four. Georgetown received one kindergarten room and two elementary classrooms, and Probtsfield received two classrooms that would be used for future growth. Additionally, Lincoln received a small gymnasium that is still in use today as a performing arts space for Theatre B.
One elementary school was closed during this period. The initial Hopkins School, located near the Hjemkomst Interpretive Center, was demolished as part of the Urban Renewal program. The last year Hopkins was in session was during the 1966-67 school year.
JUNIOR HIGH BUILDINGS
Between 1958 and the spring of 1967, all Moorhead junior high students attended either North or South Junior High Schools. These buildings are still in use today as Robert Asp (North) and Ellen Hopkins (South) Elementary Schools. In the fall of 1967, a third building, Central Junior High School, was added to. This building had many uses during its years of service. From 1937 to 1957 it was Moorhead’s only junior high building. From the fall of 1957 to 1967 it was referred to as the East High School Building and housed primarily sophomores. From the fall of 1967 until 1979, it was Central Junior High School.
Beginning in the fall of 1967 the following boundaries were used to determine where students would attend junior high. All students north of Center Avenue would attend North Junior High. Students who lived between Center Avenue and 12th Avenue South would attend Central Junior High, and all students who lived south of 12th Avenue would attend South Junior High.
THE HIGH SCHOOL
The most visible change during this period was the opening of the new Moorhead High School in the fall of 1967. The bond to build the new high school passed in 1964 and was the fourth attempt by the School Board. Three previous attempts to pass bonds failed by substantial margins and much work was done by a community task force to get the support of the district’s voters.
Initially the School Board attempted to pass a bond that would have kept the high school in the central part of town. By purchasing an entire city block, the board hoped to build a three-story addition directly east of the 8th Street high school (today’s Townsite Centre). Had this plan succeeded, the high school would have had three buildings. The 8th Street building would have been used as classroom space along with a remodel for automotive and technical learning. The new three-level addition would have served as the academic wing with a cafeteria. The West Campus (Central Junior High) would have continued to be used for its gymnasium and some classroom space. The artist’s rendering of the proposed structure shows almost no parking, no athletic fields, and only one music rehearsal room.
Following much community input, the School Board relinquished its vision for a high school in the center of town and agreed to build a new high school “out east” on land purchased from the Northern Pacific Railroad for $125,000. The groundbreaking was held in April 1966 and construction began that month. When completed in the fall of 1967, the new Moorhead High School had more square footage than the junior high schools combined and was touted as the region’s “most modern building for public instruction.”
Additional photos and videos of the construction of Moorhead High School can be found on the Moorhead Spud History Facebook page.
This is a continuation of a series of articles on the history of Moorhead Area Public Schools. For suggestions or comments, please contact Brian Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: This 1965 artist rendering shows Probtsfield Elementary School viewed from the northwest.
The groundbreaking for the new high school took place August 18, 1966. Pictured are Joseph Mork, assistant superintendent, Ken Sjulstad, student, Alden Knatterud, Moorhead High principal, Justin Swenson, superintendent, Henry Schroeder, School Board member, and Dave Suedel, student.