New middle school designed with change in mind

The bell rings, signaling the transition of classes on Monday morning at Hagen Junior High School in Dickinson, and student filter into the empty hallway.

An increase in student body population and changes in education demands have pressed Hagen Junior High School, seen here Tuesday, to update its current facility. Designs for the building are still in the conceptual phase, but moving forward quickly. (Abby Kessler/The Dickinson Press)

The bell rings, signaling the transition of classes on Monday morning at Hagen Junior High School in Dickinson, and student filter into the empty hallway.

It’s not unlike any school day transition across the country, except that some of these students have to open the school doors, walk outside and shuffle to a building across the street.

“We have run out of space,” Hagen Principal Marcus Lewton said.

To cope with a recent increase in student body population, Lewton said administration have had to be creative. In addition to students moving between Hagen and Berg Elementary School, the school’s schedule has been rearranged into trimesters, and two additional lunch periods have been added.

Hagen was constructed in 1935, during a time when learning standards were different.


“It is no longer a sit-and-get type learning,” Lewton said.“We need to prepare students for 21st-century learning.”

Keeping an expanding student population and restrictions of the current facility into consideration, initial concepts for constructing a new middle school have begun to take shape.  

Dickinson voters passed a $65 million bond referendum last October, and the district is in the final stages of acquiring a 30-acre plot of land owned by the North Dakota State University Research Extension Center in northwest Dickinson.

The DLR Group, a design firm based out of Minneapolis, has created several new middle school concepts. One would accommodate 960 students, while another presented could handle 1,200.

The school is slated to open its doors in the fall of 2017.

The new facility is set to encompass 212,000 square feet, nearly double the size of Hagen, to allow for 36 classrooms across sixth- through eighth-grade.

While some plans have been made, Dickinson Public Schools Superintendent Doug Sullivan said the facility’s design concept is still “very preliminary.”

Lewton said the school’s indecision to choose between the two designs arises from the ebbs and flows of student body population.


“It’s a complex scenario,” he said. “The variable is oil.”

Lewton said the school is looking to address the issue of fluctuating class numbers by choosing designs with flexible spacing.

“We are moving beyond the traditional four-wall model,” Lewton said.

Classrooms will be designed with a glass wall division, which can be used to separate a single class into sections. These areas could be utilized as extra space if the population rises above projected levels.

The extended space could also be used when a portion of a class understands the material, while others need more time.

Also included in the concept design is a large gym, music rooms, media area and a multi-use space that doubles as a public performance area and a cafeteria.

In addition to interior space, Sullivan said, there will be a traditional athletic field, with a track winding around its perimeter.

Kris Fehr, president of the Dickinson Public School Board, said no decisions have been finalized because DLR is designing the facility around the district’s unique requirements.  


“They are really looking into what needs to go into a modern middle school,” she said.

Fehr said the district does not want the building to be constructed using a generic model, forcing faculty, staff and students to deal with its limitations.  

Designing the correct building does take time and money though, she said.

Though a $65 million bond referendum was approved, Sullivan said the total cost of putting the building together -- including the architect, land acquisition and construction costs -- are projected to fall between $50 and $55 million.

“The bond covers soft costs, such as furniture, once the building is finished,” Sullivan said.

The reason the school will likely cost more than others in surrounding areas is something Lewton, among others, refers to as the “Bakken premium.”

“Things are just more expensive in Dickinson,” Lewton said.

However, with the downturn in oil prices, he said the district may be able to save money in comparison to initial estimates.


After the land purchase is finalized, crews will begin boring soil.

Sullivan said not long after, the construction company will “start moving dirt.”

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