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New Dickinson elementary school taking shape

Plans for a new Dickinson Public Schools elementary school are taking shape. A floor plan and several features, such as geothermal heating, have been agreed upon, said Vince Reep, DPS assistant superintendent.

The 10-acre property in northwest Dickinson is being designed with safety and security at the forefront.

"It calls for off-street bus traffic and off-street pickup and drop off, which is ideal," said Leslie Ross, Dickinson Public School Board member. "Our kids will no longer have to be on a busy street in any way, shape or form."

The school will also have an electronic locking system.

"From the office they can push a button and lock down the school," Reep said.

Different parts of the school can be utilized, such as the gymnasium or cafeteria, while areas such as classrooms are inaccessible. The main doors will be open during normal school hours, but will lead straight into an office, he said.

"Anyone that wants admission to the building then has to come through the office, be admitted and then can enter the building," Reep said. "Nobody can walk in without the principal or the secretaries admitting them."

Staff will use key cards to enter the school, he said.

Ross is most pleased with the adaptability of the floor plan.

"It's drawn in a way that allows us to add two more classrooms to every wing and then a future addition if we so choose," she said.

The plan is to begin with 18 classrooms that could hold about 450 kindergarten through fifth-grade students, Reep said.

"If we added these additional six classrooms, it would swell to 600 (students)," he added. "We hope that we don't have to make an elementary school with that many kids in it, but we're planning ... just in case."

Officials also have big plans for the outside of the school.

"This playground will be done in concert with (Dickinson) Parks and Rec so it will be done not only as a school playground but a neighborhood park," Reep said. "We are combining finances and expertise to make it a nice playground."

They're planning for three different age-appropriate zones of play equipment, he said.

A retention pond will also be located on the school grounds.

"We're talking about educational possibilities for that pond -- everything from earth science to life science," Reep said. "Maybe some of the upper grades will want to do some science lessons using that pond that's right on the property."

In February 2013, DPS staff will be reorganized, he said.

"We'll do that in two phases," Reep said. "We'll ask for volunteers and then we'll have to reassign some and we'll have to hire some new ones too."

They want to occupy the building by Aug. 1, 2013, he added.

However, before that happens, the school has to be named.

The district has received numerous submissions for name suggestions from the public and will continue to take them until Feb. 29, said Twila Petersen, DPS administrative assistant.

The district-wide Parent Advisory Council will review the suggestions and submit three to five recommendations to the Dickinson Public School Board to decide upon, Petersen said.

Ross estimated the board would make a decision by April.

Officials hope to open bids for the facility in March, but the project is estimated to cost $11.5 million.

"It hasn't gone out for bids, but we'll have to tailor our building according to the amount of funds we have," Ross said.