- Associated Press - Saturday, April 29, 2017

MOTT, N.D. (AP) - Viola LaFontaine headed up the Williston Public School during the biggest boom years of student growth and building frenzy in the district’s history.

Up until last school year, she was top administrator for 3,500 students and 500 staff and her involvement in the new school buildings was hands off through a construction management team.

Now, instead of meeting with a construction manager who reports on progress, she’s helping make decisions right down to what kind of faucets should be installed in the new bathrooms.

She’s the new superintendent of the Mott-Regent Public School, with its 230 students, 50 staff and a new elementary school rising up from open ground where kids used to play.

It’s so hands on and personal in a good way, she says, including all the community support when her husband died just months after they arrived for the school year.

“If I had started (my career) at a Class B school, I would have never been Class A,” she said. “It’s such a nice change.”

Her experience at Williston makes her well-prepared for the ongoing construction of the first new public elementary school in more than 100 years in Mott. Like many things a long time in the coming, it’ll be worth the wait.

The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/2p8mbIc ) reports that the official groundbreaking was August after voters took their second try at a bond issue - this one smaller by roughly half and for just a new elementary instead of a total replacement K-12. By working through a long and cold winter, the contractor is on schedule for an Aug. 1 occupancy. That means students from Head Start through grade 6, along with the staff and the administration, will start the 2017-18 school year in a building as brand new as their first-day outfits and No. 2 lead pencils.

LaFontaine said she’s getting a lot of help from the school board and a smaller construction committee. She’s a believer in committee work and says, “They’re taking time for this and paying attention to details.”

The new two-story school, with 37,000 square feet of space, includes spacious classrooms, technology rooms, music, library and a cafeteria and will connect to the high school on both levels.

“The new building will be a benefit - a perk for them and something they deserve, the staff and the kids,” she says.

Bids came in lower than expected and will allow some improvements to the adjoining high school building, including new siding and windows to tighten it up without exceeding the $8.6 million bond issue.

Mott Mayor Troy Mosbrucker said he enjoys driving past the new school construction, thinking not only of his three young grandchildren, but of all the children in the Mott-Regent district who will benefit from a school built for the kids of today and tomorrow, not for those a century ago.

“I love to see the progress. This will be a benefit for Mott and Regent,” Mosbrucker said. “There’s a lot of excitement.”

The school staff is starting to work on a moving plan, aiming to minimize the move-in chaos as summer winds to a close.

LaFontaine said the board plans to demolish the old landmark elementary building in October. Before it’s gone, during the Sept. 15 homecoming week, there are plans for a walk-through for former students and staff and an auction of whatever is no longer needed. Tours of the new building will be included in the events.

Mosbrucker said the new school is already a source of energy for the communities.

“It’s something for everyone to look forward to,” he said. “It’s going to be fun.”


Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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