After overcrowded classrooms and increasing enrollment proved to become an issue with existing space, Killdeer Public School proposed building a new school to accommodate its growing student body. Over the past months, construction is coming along right on schedule, with a set completion date for July of 2022, according to Superintendent Jeff Simmons.
The new building will house seventh through 12th grade students, whereas kindergarten through sixth grade students will continue attending at the school's current building on High Street Northwest. The preschool and daycare, which are currently housed at St. John's Lutheran Church, will move to the current school building as well.
As of this fall, Killdeer Public School has a population of 600 students, including the preschool, that continues to grow. Simmons said the current building was becoming unworkable.
“We are at capacity. We’ve moved teachers into janitorial closets and every possible space is full. So it was time to build,” Simmons said.
Simmons said that because the project has progressed thus far $2 million under budget, they were able to add a meat lab, greenhouse and expand the gymnasium by 10,000-square feet. The greenhouse and meat lab will be an expansion of the Killdeer’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program. At the meat lab, students will learn how to process and butcher different types of animals and the various cuts of meat that come from them.
The school already has a substantial CTE Program, so Simmons said he’s ready to add to it.
“We have a small engines component to one of our classes. We also have a woods class, and we have a strong ag program,” he said. “They are all run out of the same classroom.”
Starting the project in May of 2020 at the beginning months of the coronavirus pandemic felt like a bit of a risk but it worked out for the best, Simmons said.
“The timing could not have been better because we were able to get very competitive bids from people who were concerned there wouldn’t be any work,” he said. “Because we got that done early, we were able to get our procurement process taken care of and get all of our supplies ordered before we had this big supply chain issue. So we’ve been very fortunate that we’ve been able to stay ahead of the game… There’s been a few issues but it really hasn’t been anything that slowed us up.”
A smart lab for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education has already been installed at the current school and an age appropriate version will be constructed in the new building as well, Simmons noted.
Simmons remarked how impressed he is by the level of cooperation that has occurred among the school, City of Killdeer and Dunn County. The city helped with running water and sewer lines to the site, while the county built an access road and donated a $8.5 million grant for this project.
“It has really been a community involvement project. We couldn’t have done it without the cooperation of of the city and the county,” he said.
Simmons credited his predecessor with laying so much of the foundation to make the project possible.
“I have a lot of gratitude for Mr. Gary Wilz, the previous superintendent. He and the school board did a lot of legwork to get a referendum passed, which is really unheard of. There’s just not a lot of bond referendums that get passed. So they did a fabulous job. They did a lot of hard work to get that done and make it happen,” Simmons said, noting that voters approved the referendum by a two-thirds majority.
As the Press reported in a previous article, the school district purchased the 52-acre plot of land Oct. 15, 2020, for $10,000. The site will encompass 110,000-square feet with 31 classrooms, accommodating the increasing rate of students and holds approximately 800 students of seventh through 12th graders. The new high school will be situated approximately a half mile west of the city of Killdeer, located on High Street. The new building will also have room for a new baseball diamond, football stadium, football practice field and eventually a new elementary school at some point in the future.
“So when you look at the blueprints… the other future endeavors like the ball field, the stadium and the elementary are all grayed out on the master plan. It’s there. The ground has been prepped, but we have no immediate plans to do any of those things,” Simmons said. “The school board did a great job... I really have to commend them for being visionary and taking care of the future. This is an old building. It serves us well. It’s been kept very well, but they’ve planned for the future.”
Recent sunny weather patterns have also been great for construction, he noted.
“The weather has been phenomenal for this project. Clearly, dry weather has created problems for our area ranchers and people in ag, but it’s been very conducive for building a school,” Simmons said.
There are three main contractors working on the project: ICON Architectural Group, Kraus-Anderson Construction Co. and Lowry Engineering.
“ICON is our architect and they’re doing a fantastic job. I can’t say enough good things about them. We have Kraus-Anderson who is our construction manager, and we have Lowry Engineering to help with our engineering work,” Simmons added.