Connor Brandvik stood with head rested on the handle of his shovel Tuesday afternoon as he looked out onto a grassy fi eld where, two years from now, he’ll spend his eighth-grade school year.
The Dickinson 10-year-old was one of three children of Hagen Junior High staff selected to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Dickinson Middle School. Brandvik will be a sixth-grader at Berg Elementary School this year, but in the fall of 2017 will be among the fi rst group of students to enter the middle school.
“I personally feel really honored,” Brandvik said, still wearing his hard hat. “It just feels so good to be a part of something that’s really important.”
Staff members, Dickinson Public Schools offi cials and representatives of companies involved with the school’s construction met for the groundbreaking in what — for now — is a rural area in northwest Dickinson along under-construction 21st Street West between State Avenue and 30th Avenue West.
Within two weeks, construction will start on the school.
“It really is like field of dreams,” said Vince Reep, Dickinson Public Schools assistant superintendent. “If you build it, they will come.”
Hagen Junior High Principal Marcus Lewton was joined by his 9-year-old son, Thomas, as they broke ground together. Thomas Lewton will be part of the school’s fi rst sixth-grade class.
Marcus Lewton said the middle school is part of a long history of communities planning with children’s education in mind.
“In this part of the country, when you had one-room schoolhouse or homestead, men and women would get together and say, let’s build a place because we need a place for our kids,” he said. “I’m very humbled that we have a new place for our kids.”
The school, intended to hold as many as to 960 students, will sit on 30 acres of land purchased in January from North Dakota State University Research Extension Center for $1.35 million, or $45,000 per acre. It’ll replace the nearly 80-yearold Hagen Junior High, originally built in 1935 as Dickinson Central High School.
It’ll be the fi rst middle school or junior high constructed in the district’s history.
Voters approved a $65 million bond referendum to fi nance the school Oct. 7 by a three-fourths majority. That step, however, was only one part of about two years of work that has already gone into the school’s planning, offi cials said.
“To get there, it’s been a long road,” said Doug Sullivan, Dickinson Public Schools superintendent. “It’s been a lot of time. Hopefully by January, the plan is to start construction of the wall.”
Randy Wall, an engineer with KLJ in Dickinson — which has been a part of the middle school’s planning process since its inception — said the building will be situated east to west with the front of the building facing south. He said that will help provide more natural sunlight for classrooms and the courtyard.
“That’s what I dug my heels in about,” he said.
A new street, 29th Street West, will serve as one of the school’s entrances.
Representatives from architect DLR Group and Mortenson Construction were also on hand.
Chris Gibbs, the principal with DLR Group, said his company has designed several schools throughout the upper Midwest — most recently, Bismarck Legacy High School.
Mortenson is responsible for building the West River Community Center, the Biesiot Activities Center and the Sanford Health Dickinson Clinic.
“That was the important draw for us to come back,” said Barry Morgan, a construction executive for Mortenson.
Sarah Ricks, the newly elected president of the Dickinson Public Schools board, said the day had special meaning to her. She said her five children, ages 2 through 7, will all be able to enjoy the new school.
“We want what’s best for everyone’s children, but it’s wonderful to see that there’s going to be the resources there for my children as they’re coming through,” Ricks said. “It’s really wonderful.”