For superintendent Terry Voiles, it’s hard to look at all the changes currently happening on the Bishop Ryan campus and not think back to the Souris River flood of 2011.
“The flood started the ball rolling on everything,” Voiles said. “It put us into crisis mode. We had to think critically and creatively about short-term solutions and what kind of school we wanted to become. It really highlighted how strong Minot and Bishop Ryan are.”
Bishop Ryan’s new strategic plan was due to be introduced the day floodwaters broke through, putting Little Flower Elementary School and
any parts of Minot underwater. Even though the introduction was delayed, many parts of that strategic plan went into action, addressing the pressing flood concerns and setting up the school’s future at the ame time. “In implementing the strategic plan right away, we had a road map on how to keep moving forward, and that’s thanks to having good people in good positions. When I look at what our community and our Bishop Ryan family have accomplished, it’s mind-boggling,” Voiles said.
Building and renovating are common themes apparent around the campus these days, and they were the foremost concern after permanently moving Little Flower’s 140 preschool and elementary students to Bishop Ryan. The recent success of the Growing Our Faith, Our Family, Our Future
capital campaign has led to the biggest construction project on campus: the addition of six new classrooms on the southeast corner of the building that are being built specifically with preschool, kindergarten and first grade in mind. Students will be welcomed into those classrooms at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, and as classroom relocations are completed throughout next summer, a brand new elementary library and computer lab will take over the existing preschool rooms. The campaign also funded the school library’s renovation into a media center, and the school’s science lab and former home economics classroom were taken down to the bare bones, making way for brand new science labs for high school and middle school students.
Other projects in various phases around the school include a new security system, a new phone system, a remodeled and upgraded kitchen and cafeteria, renovations of the locker rooms, a renovated and permanent space for the weight room, upgrades to lighting in the parking lots and drainage around the school, and a brand new playground for elementary students. The school’s main gymnasium is also being redone with new bleachers and lighting and a refinished floor surface.
Along with the construction projects, some special things are happening with regards to curriculum, as well. This year, Bishop Ryan introduced a new Kindergarten Readiness Program, meant to be a stepping stone between preschool and kindergarten. “We felt it was the right time to introduce a class that bridges the gap between two- and three-half-day preschool classes and five full-day kindergarten classes and focuses on being prepared for the new kindergarten standards in North Dakota,” Voiles said. On the opposite end of the student spectrum, the graduating class of 2013 posted higher ACT scores across the board in a year when North Dakota’s averages were down. “It’s really a testament to the students and faculty and all the work they do.”
All the changes are meant to complement what’s going on with the most important part of the school: the students. “The results of what we’re doing can be seen as making this a safer environment for our kids, but you can also see how these changes show in ways like increased enrollment, a good educational setting, a solid curriculum, amazing teachers, and higher test scores,” Voiles said. “We feel like we’re at a really good place in shaping the future of Bishop Ryan.”