Bozeman High School

Students stand outside Bozeman High School in this Chronicle file photo.

Construction bids for the $25 to $30 million cost of renovating Bozeman High School have been opened and experts are busy analyzing them so that crews can start rebuilding the school this summer.

Scores of competing bids for 34 different packages of work and materials — everything from electrical work to plumbing, contracting, drywall, concrete and the like — were opened Tuesday, said Steve Johnson, deputy superintendent.

“I felt encouraged,” Johnson said Friday. “We were in the ballpark of what we expected. It could have been better, but it could have been a lot worse. We’ve been through some painful bid openings in the past.”

Unlike the building boom era of a dozen years ago — when bids came in so high that several school and university projects had to be put on hold and rebid — the bids appear to be within the budget, Johnson said.

With new Gallatin High’s construction coming in a little under budget and some unused contingency funds still available, Johnson said he’s confident rebidding won’t be necessary for the Bozeman High project.

General contractor Langlas & Associates and CTA Architects Engineers are analyzing the bids, he said. The Bozeman School Board is expected to vote on awarding contracts in January.

The School Board has approved final construction plans for Bozeman High — a new two-story classroom wing, a new student entry and commons area at the west entry facing Ruth Thibeault Way, and a new 750-seat auditorium, which the school has needed for decades.

Construction is expected to begin about June 12, when students leave for summer vacation and the school has emptied out.

As soon as school lets out, Bozeman High’s outdated brick classroom wings C, D, E and J are to be demolished.

J-wing, which houses the old library, will be the site of the new auditorium. South of that will be built the new two-story classroom building.

“Once those wings are out of the way, that will give a good construction area to work in without infringing on Mandeville Creek,” Johnson said. Student groups and community volunteers worked for several summers to turn what had been a straight ditch into a meandering stream with native plants along North 11th Avenue.

Last August the School Board approved the sale of $25 million in bonds to pay for the major renovations to the original high school.

Those bonds were the last part of the $125 million bond issue to pay for building a second high school, which voters approved in 2017 to cope with growing student enrollment at Montana’s largest high school. The bond issue also promised to improve Bozeman High, to ensure the town has two attractive high schools and not “have and have-not” schools.

The more than $90 million construction of Gallatin High School in northwest Bozeman is 73% complete, on track to open to students in the fall of 2020. That’s when freshmen, sophomores and juniors who live in the Gallatin High attendance area will begin classes at the new school. Next year’s seniors will get to stay and finish at Bozeman High.

With Bozeman High losing hundreds of students next fall, that will free up space and make it easier for construction to progress.

The bond issue also paid for $12.7 million in improvements this year to Bozeman High’s grounds, including construction of a new Van Winkle sports stadium that will be used by both high schools. Adding a video board to the scoreboard, a late addition to the project, cost $90,802.

The site work also moved softball fields, expanded Ruth Thibeault Way and built a traffic roundabout on North 15th Avenue.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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