Innovation In Education: Enhancing The Spud Experience

Written by: Brady Drake

Collaborative learning, student engagement and authentic experiences are at the core of a multi-year effort by Moorhead High School to re-imagine education for every student in their diverse and growing student body. This transformation started nearly four years ago with community engagement and the development of the Portrait of a Graduate, characteristics that Moorhead Area Public Schools hopes to instill in every student.

We are re-imagining the High school experience to ensure each Moorhead High student engages in modern career exploration and investigation. This new, innovative learning encompasses all students and programs at both Moorhead High and the new, yet to be named, career academy.” Dr. Brandon Lunak, Superintendent

Innovative changes to curriculum and scheduling will enable students to have improved access to career pathways with the goal of making every student ready for college, career or both when they graduate.

gymnasium rendering
The 3-court gymnasium will feature arena style seating for over 3,000, with access from court level or the second level running track.

Moorhead is unique. The sense of pride that comes with being a Moorhead Spud is tangible and permeates students and alumni on multiple levels. Strengthening that identity continues to be extremely important throughout the community. The idea of maintaining that Spud identity by continuing with a single high school that has two sites was born during discussions with citizens and parents during the planning and pre-design phase. This approach, along with the creation of learning neighborhoods, will allow the district to provide smaller learning communities within the framework of a large high school.

commons rendering
The commons will be the focal point for student life on campus and provides the hub for academic wings and activities areas.

Regional workforce development and expanded educational opportunities were key drivers behind the concept of adding a regional Career Academy to compliment the high school. In November of 2019, Moorhead residents overwhelmingly approved a bonding bill that will support these efforts. Prior to the passing of the referendum and in the months since, over 300 community members, teachers, staff and students have participated directly in the development of plans for the new Career Academy and the new High School. This has truly been a collaborative effort in partnership with Zerr Berg Architects and Gehrtz Construction Services.

community engagement
The design process has included several community engagement meetings and extensive administrative and staff involvement.

Construction of the Moorhead Area Career Academy is underway. Work began in August, 2020 on the first phase of the High School project, which will re-purpose the former Sam’s Club building and provide program space for multiple career pathways including Farm to Table, Health and Human Potential, Entrepreneurship and Business, Information Technology and Design Thinking, Manufacturing and Transit, Personalized Core Curriculum and Liberal Arts & Communication. Robust new lab spaces for building trades, automotive and small engine repair, metals and wood fabrication will be provided along with several large flexible lab spaces for STEM courses such as engineering, robotics and aviation. Local partners will be instrumental in the development of spaces and curriculum for the Career Academy.

Moorhead Area Career Academy
Rendering of the Moorhead Area Career Academy, which is currently under construction.

Work will begin this spring on the construction of a new high school. “We believe high school should be relevant and personalized. Moorhead High School will create and implement Small Learning Communities to increase student success and personal connections by making a large school smaller,” said Dave Lawrence, Moorhead High School Principal.

Moorhead Theater rendering.
The new theater will seat just over 1,000 and will be constructed as part of the second phase.

Community members felt strongly that the new school should be built on site of the current building, creating challenges and requiring a well-defined phasing plan. The first phase of construction will include the construction of three new academic wings, the commons, and athletic spaces on the parking lot north of the existing building. Students will occupy this space fall of 2023 at which time the existing school building will be removed to allow for construction of Phase II, which includes spaces for music and the arts along with a 1,000-seat theater. This capstone project for Moorhead Area Public Schools will be completed late fall of 2024. The District will celebrate 150 years and over 25,500 graduates in 2023 while the new school is under construction. In the halls of Moorhead High School, you will often hear someone say, “It’s a great day to be a Spud!” This project is an investment in students and the community. Future students will have incredible opportunities in these new facilities to explore their potential, discover their passion, work toward industry certifications and gain real work skills, ultimately impacting their communities and the world. This investment in our community ensures it will continue to be a great day to be a Spud!

East building entrance
East building entrance is adjacent to the existing Sports Center and provides direct access to the athletics commons. The weight room and cardio mezzanine are to the right of the entry.

For updates on the construction progress, visit the MAPS district construction website at or visit

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.