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Dickinson elementary school construction costs $500,000 over budget

Contractors pushed the price to build a Dickinson elementary school $500,000 over budget, but school board members said they have no choice but to forge ahead.

"We have too many kids we don't have a place for," said Kris Fehr, Dickinson Public School Board president. "Someone said to me, 'Why can't you put an extra kid in a classroom?' I said, 'You can, but we still have 100 kids that don't have a place to go to school.'"

The board voted unanimously to accept bids to build Prairie Rose Elementary School for $12.12 million during a special meeting Thursday at the Central Administration Office. The board approved bids from four companies for general, mechanical, electrical and food services.

The board budgeted $11.62 million for the project in July.

An oil boom in western North Dakota has brought more people to Dickinson and has increased the need for another school, said Vince Reep, Dickinson Public Schools assistant superintendent. Reep expects up to 300 more students in 2013.

The school that could hold up to 450 grade school students will stand on 10 acres in northwest Dickinson, Reep said. The school should be ready July 16, 2013.

The assistant superintendent suggested taking $400,000 from next year's faculty housing funds and $100,000 from capital projects to absorb the increase. He added DPS could get by without it and the school was important enough to use the funds, but it could make hiring difficult.

"We cut pretty deep to make this happen," he said. "Students come first."

The project has not received outside funding from donations or the state, board member Leslie Ross said, adding that is phenomenal.

"We are taking this completely out of our own hide," she said. "It's one of those things that really needs to be out there for the general population that we are taking this from ourselves."

Reep said they applied for almost $4.5 million from the Energy Infrastructure and Impact Fund.