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Construction at Big Sky School District progresses

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Central Excavation began work on the site at LPHS and Ophir School on June 3 and construction on Phase 1 of the project is expected to be completed in mid-September. PHOTO BY GABRIELLE GASSER

By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – The fences are up; the big machinery is here and construction on Phase 1 of the project to revamp the track and field at Big Sky School District is on schedule. 

On May 5, 2020, the community passed a $23.5 million bond issue introduced by the school district to deal with the expanding student population. According to Loren Bough, school board chair, they are expecting the student population to be over 400 students for kindergarten through 12th grade moving forward. 

“We want to have facilities that match that growing student population and also meet the new criteria for moving from a Class C school to a Class B School, which should happen in the next couple years,” Bough said. BSSD is currently designated as a Class C school based on enrollment numbers but anticipates a change to Class B in the near future.

Phase 1, which includes a new turf field, lighting, bleachers, an eight-lane track and two 35,000-gallon buried fire tanks, was bid on April 6. Cristie Tate with Tate Management, Inc. was hired as the representative for the Big Sky School District and she has been representing the district throughout design and construction of the project.

Jackson Contractor Group is the construction manager/general contractor for the project, A&E Design is the architect and Central Excavation is the subcontractor for site work, which started on June 3, 2021. 

The plan is to have the turf field ready in mid-September and to finish the track and field facilities on Sept. 24.

Phase 2 of the project, which includes a 14,235-square-foot STEAM lab, a 26,565-square-foot gym expansion and an additional septic drain field, was bid on May 27th, 2021, but bids came in higher than the project budget due to the current construction market, according to Tate. The project will be re-bid next January. According to Dr. Dustin Shipman, superintendent of the school district, the school board decided at their June 13 meeting to rebid Phase 2. “It wasn’t fiscally responsible for us to try to push forward,” he said.

Currently, according to Tate, lead times on certain materials push the expected completion of the gym back by five months and increase contractor fees. Originally, she said, Jackson’s plan was to build the STEAM lab and the gym expansion simultaneously but that timeline has now been altered. 

“The Big Sky School District’s decision to re-bid the project, with the potential to capture better material pricing, is the responsible decision,”  Tate said in an email to EBS. “The school district team has been extremely disciplined in making this decision with regard to financial responsibility to their constituents.”

Though Phase 2 has experienced delays, Phase 1 is on schedule and will provide a new resource for the school’s growing student body. 

“I think the community is going to be very pleased with the new football field and soccer pitch,” Bough said. “It’s exciting for our community. We’re the smallest community in Montana to field a MHSA soccer team and the work there is on schedule and we hope to have the kids on the turf in September.” 

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