New high school project still in the works

WATFORD CITY A new high school project in the McKenzie County School District came in over budget, so adjustments are being made, said Superintendent Steve Holen.

Holen said the cost estimates provided to the public before voters passed a bond issue on March 11 have increased by $27 per square foot.

“This has caused the school district to consider project/bid alternatives in order to bring the project back to the $50 million original budget,” said Holen.

Voters approved a $27 million bond issue, which is the district’s current debt limit, which will cost taxpayers an additional 20 mills over the next 20 years.

The funding will pay for construction of a new high shcool that is intended to be built to house 800 students in grades 7-12. The building was envisioned as a three story, 160,000 square foot school which will include classrooms, cafeteria, commnos, kitchen, multimedia center and learning resource center. The school will also feature a gymnasium, two athletic fields, cardio weight room, wrestling ring, theater, shop and band and choral rooms. Plans are to repurpose the existing high school into a middle school.

Holen said growth has been ongoing in the school district.

Since the spring of 2010, when there were 538 students in grades K-12, enrollment has increased to 1,080 students in K-12 in the spring of 2014. Kindergarten enrollment for the 2013-2014 school year was at 120 students. Enrollment in the elementary ended this school year with 580 students and the 6-12 high school ended with 500 students.

“Both buildings are projected to exceed capacity to start the 2014-2015 school year,” said Holen, who added that six portable classrooms are in use at the elementary school.

In addition, according to a press release issued by contractor Kraus-Anderson Construction Company, there will be a $60 million municipal event and recreation center built adjacent to the new high school. The 240,700-squre foot facility will feature a swimming pool, three basketball courts, two-sheet ice arena for hockey and skating, baseball and softball stadiums, convention space and a 3,000 seat venue for concerts and sporting events. It will also include parking lots, conference rooms and administrative offices.

The event center is being funded in part by a one cent city sales tax approved by voters.

The combined construction cost of both projects is expected to exceed $100 million.

Both the high school and the event center are designed by JLG Architects. Krauss Anderson and Grand Forks based Construction Engineers, Inc. are working together on the project. Work on both projects is to begin in July and is construction is expected to be completed in early 2016.