Campus Renovations

Small-Town Native to Fund $40M K–12 Renovation Project

The Winifred School, part of Winifred Public Schools in Winifred, Mont., is set to receive a series of high-tech upgrades and renovations that would double the school’s original size. Upgrades to the K–12 school will include lab spaces, a woodworking area, an agricultural science space, a car repair space, and a full-size gym featuring an indoor track.

The project is the initiative of Norman Asbjornson, who grew up in Winifred and went on to found HVAC company AAON, Inc. Asbjornson is funding the entire $40-million project himself and expressed a desire to give back to his hometown, which has a population of about 200.

“I’m more than capable financially of doing a significant contribution, and I said, ‘Well, if you’re committed to it, then I’ll dial in. And if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right,’” he said. “I am guiding it a little bit to the architect and type of school, and making sure everything that could be done to make an outstanding school in the state of Montana.”

The school is partnering with A&E Design on the project. The school’s new layout is meant to encourage collaboration and encourage an active learning environment with multidisciplinary work spaces. “The vision, particularly from Norman and the design team as a whole, is that we could start to see this level of education facility ripple throughout the state—that this will be a model for others to look to and say, ‘How do I accomplish that?’” said Dusty Eaton of A&E Design.

In May 2020, AAON’s Board of Directors donated $1.25 million to the Winifred Montana Public Schools District in honor of Asbjornson, to be used for the construction of a new K–12 public school building.

“The town is becoming a better town all the time, and it’s raising a lot more prime citizens for the future, who will hopefully someday return the favor to the town when they’re capable and continue to make Winifred and Montana a better town and a better state,” Asbjornson said.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. He can be reached at [email protected].