DOVER, Okla. — Nearly two years to the day a fire destroyed Dover High School, students and staff moved into the new high school, and back into a sense of normalcy. 

“We were able to get into it in January … it was almost two years, I think it was exactly two years to the day actually from the day that it burned to the first day we held classes in it,” said Dover Public Schools Superintendent Shannon Grimes. 

A total loss

Shortly after midnight on Jan. 12, 2016, Dover firefighters received a call about the high school being on fire, which Kingfisher and Hennessey fire departments also responded to. 

While the high school ended up being a total loss, the elementary school, gymnasium and cafeteria were all saved. Officials said the fire started from a heat lamp in the science room. 

Pride of the Plains 2018: All sections and stories

Pride of the Plains is a special section that will publish in the Enid News & Eagle for eight Sundays in February, March and April 2018. The section is designed to feature individuals, businesses and organizations in Enid and Northwest Oklahoma that work every day for the betterment of the region and its residents.

Grimes said students in grades 7-12 had to spend the last two years in six temporary classrooms set up in the elementary and practice gym. The temporary classrooms had the display boards, technology and same items as normal classrooms, but Grimes said with the classrooms having no ceilings, noise was a big issue. 

Now though, students are back in normal classrooms in the new school building which, with the exception of a few minor items being finished in the coming weeks, is completed.

The new building includes eight classrooms, a central library that doubles as computer lab on one end, a student commons area and three offices. Two of the classrooms are an ag classroom and a STEM classroom. 

“The kids seem real appreciative of it. Teachers I know feel a lot better about the environment they’re teaching in rather than those open classrooms,” Grimes said. 

Tougher times

The process to building the new school took a bit of time, but Grimes said getting the new building done in two years since the fire is quite an accomplishment. 

“It’s not like we had gone out and planned a facility prior to it burning down, so that took a little bit of time,” he said. 

The new building is connected to the other school buildings. A bond issue that passed in the fall prior to the fire funded the remodel of the cafeteria and some bathrooms and upgraded the fire system, and Grimes said some extra funds were available to help the school do some additional projects, such as enclosing the walkway that connects the buildings.  

“It’s good. I’m glad for the kids and for the teachers and just anything that can make the learning environment for them better … and make their lives a little easier, so I’m grateful for them for that part of it,” Grimes said.

He added while current seniors and previous students who had to deal with temporary classrooms won’t get much reward out of the new building, future students will. 

“There were a lot of kids who had to go through some tougher times in order for these kids now to be able to have this. I hate that those kids had to go through that, but we’re glad to have a new building too,” Grimes said. 

Future growth

Dover Public Schools has about 168 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade right now, Grimes said. While Dover has seen declining enrollment since 2008 and the fire and displaced students further complicated enrollment, Grimes expects to see the district start growing again. 

“My anticipation is that you’ll see this district grow over the next five years quite a little bit ... I think realistically you could double enrollment really easily and possible triple it over the next five years,” he said. 

A new gas plant and the new Red Dirt Wind Project, amongst current and new upcoming school programs are allowing the district the potential to grow and improve. 

Among some of the changes coming, will be a new superintendent. Grimes is taking a position as superintendent for Aztec Charter School in Oklahoma City. Max Thomas will be taking over as Dover Public Schools superintendent June 1, in addition to being superintendent of Chisholm Trail Technology Center, where he’s held the role for 10 years. Thomas and Grimes said the shared superintendency is a first for Oklahoma and will allow a close partnership between the two schools. 

“There’s a real opportunity here for the district to grow,” Grimes said. “We’ve ... developed a strategic plan for our district over the next 5 years aimed at growing the district that we have in place.”

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Miller is the area reporter for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @Ryanm_reporter. He can be reached at rmiller@enidnews.com.

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I was born near Denver, later moved to Selah, Washington and then attended the University of Kansas, graduating in May 2017. Prior to Enid News, I interned with the Yakima-Herald Republic and wrote arts and features for the University Daily Kansan.