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By Ryan Bakken, Forum Communications Co., Published August 26 2012

School epitomizes Northwood’s strength to come back from tornado

NORTHWOOD, N.D. – The street leading to the new school is Trojan Road, a nod to its sports nickname when Northwood went alone in athletics.

For 10 years, Northwood has been part of a sports cooperative with neighboring Hatton, using “Thunder” as its nickname. Sports co-ops have become common for rural schools; shrinking enrollments mean fewer students available for extracurricular activities.

Schools also are increasingly sharing in other areas, such as teachers, facilities and classes. In some cases, as enrollments and finances erode, this sharing has led to school consolidations.

Northwood’s new $12.7 million school that replaced one destroyed by the 2007 tornado, has solidified its future.

“It gives us stability going forward,” said school board President Erik Thorsgard. “Residents didn’t wait to see what was happening with the school before they rebuilt, but I think the school has helped to bring businesses and people building here.”

Thorsgard and Bob Wallace, the school board president in 2007, are hesitant to talk about the school becoming a magnet for consolidation because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Plus, a month before the tornado, Northwood and Hatton voted on a consolidation plan that would have both towns with a K-6 school, Hatton with grades 7-8 and Northwood with grades 9-12. The measure had 96 percent approval in Northwood, but only 42 percent in Hatton, so it was defeated.

But Hatton welcomed Northwood students after the tornado. The students did not share classrooms, but Northwood high-schoolers occupied the Hatton school’s third floor while the younger grades were scattered throughout Hatton, most of them in portable construction trailers.

“The first item of business was to get our kids back into a normal environment,” Wallace said. “Because of Hatton, we were able to do that.

“To this day, we’re very grateful to Hatton.”

Ryan Bakken writes for the Grand Forks Herald