The West Fargo School District's newest school, and third middle school, will greet new students starting Thursday.

Heritage Middle School, 6350 76th Ave. S. in Horace, N.D. will open to about half of its 550 students Thursday because of the district's hybrid learning model, which divides students into in-person classes two days a week. Students with last names L-Z will attend class Thursday and Friday and students with last names starting with A-K will attend their first in-person classes starting Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Heritage Middle School Principal Erin Spies is excited to welcome students into the new school, even if only part-time at first.

Construction on the two-level school began last year after voters overwhelming passed a $106.9 million bond referendum in 2018 to add a third middle school and high school to the fast-growing district. As construction began to wrap up on the new home of the Hawks this spring, the district began construction on the high school just south of the middle school in Horace.

As students walk into the main entrance of Heritage, they are greeted with high ceilings adorned with light wooden beams and plenty of natural light, a common construction theme across the entire school.

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Like Cheney Middle School and Liberty Middle School, the classrooms are organized around a team, in which about 100 students belong to a team that is located in its own pod.

Four classrooms for the core studies are located in each team's pod, along with a locker bay and small group workspace.

"This building is different in that each team has its own pod," Spies said.

At Heritage, each classroom has a large garage door that many teachers have already opted to keep open, which will allow for more distancing among chairs and desks.

Hallways will be reduced to one-way traffic and the cafeteria seating will be limited to about two students per table to enforce social distancing.

Each of the pods also has drop-down charging stations for students and Apple TVs that can be used by students and teachers for group learning. Every middle school student is allotted an iPad through the district's One to One program.

"This is the first year we're One to One at the middle level," Spies said.

While the bright gymnasium is finished and ready for practicing teams, the school's theater is still under construction, with a finish date expected in December.

Heritage Middle School will house sixth- through eighth-graders and will also be home for one year to ninth-graders, who will be housed on the second level of Heritage for the 2020-21 school year.

Pam Cronin, who was named principal of Horace High School, will oversee the current ninth-graders at Heritage as she helps prepare the newest high school for opening. Spies went through a similar process; she was stationed at Deer Creek Elementary last year as she helped usher in Heritage.

Cronin said only three students at Heritage opted to attend fully virtual school.

Next fall, the ninth-graders will begin their sophomore year at the newly opened Horace High School that is planned to open with grades nine and 10. Students attending Heritage Middle School have been students at Horace Elementary School, Deer Creek Elementary School and Liberty Middle School.

The new high school is expected to have classes 9-12 for the first time in the 2023-24 school year. It will have a population of about 644, and Sheyenne High School will have about 1,471 students. Heritage Middle School will have about 571 students and Liberty Middle School will have about 1,252.