The Dickinson School District held a public forum on the possible construction of a new high school last night in which it laid out its most recent plans and addressed community questions.

The district presented a new option to the public that would keep existing parts of the current school.

"That's the option we're proceeding with right now," said Marc Mellmer, vice president of JE Dunn, the CMAR for the project. "There could be things tweaked and modified, but it's definitely the option. We're not ripping down the entire school. We are salvaging the '97 expansion and the gymnasiums and the additional space within them."

This option was the cheapest of the options considered, with a tentative cost of approximately $108 million, though Mellmer said the cost could go down, especially if a couple of bills are passed. The bond amount is currently undefined, as they have questions that need to be answered.

"Is there going to be a $15 million funding for rapidly growing schools?" Mellmer said. "Is there going to be $15 million for CTE? That's a potential for $30 million. Also, what district funds can come available to help pay for it, too, to lessen the bond amount?"

Parent Barry Braun likes the new option.

"I'm excited that we had this opportunity to build a new facility, and the fact that we can incorporate some existing building into it is just a plus," he said. "I think it's a good use of the taxpayer money."

This option also gives the school the most square footage. The plan for building an entire new structure would have given the school approximately 311,183 square feet; the plan they're pursuing would give the school approximately 367,961 square feet, including more athletic space.

Questions arose about the size of the school, whether or not the district needs to build one that large. Hocker said in the beginning of the project, they had talked about a 2,000-student school but had scaled it down as most of the communities in the state opt to build a second school once they reach about 1,400 to 1,600 students.

Mellmer mentioned the new Williston school that his company built. At the time, the school had between 800 and 900 students. Since then, its student population has nearly doubled.

"We built that high school school for 1,200 students. It was a lot more. ... Right now, we're getting ready to put an expansion on Williston's brand new high school to bump them to 1,600 students. ... That expansion to take them from 1,200 to 1,600 students is probably the price of an elementary school."

Other community members were concerned about the potential for the CTE portion to be put on Dickinson State University's campus. Hocker explained that they would like to be able to have the building on their own campus, but aren't sure what the requirements of the grant would be, which has yet to be addressed in the Legislature.

The district plans to hold several more public forums between now and April.