Gallatin High School will open in less than 11 months and school officials say great progress is being made in construction and preparing for the new school’s teachers and students.

Construction on the $93 million project is about 67% completed, said Todd Swinehart, school facilities director. People driving by on Oak Street, Cottonwood or Flanders Mill Road can see what the exterior is going to look like, with brick, glass and metal siding.

“Everything is going fantastic,” Swinehart said Wednesday. “We still have a long ways to go.”

“I think it’s beautiful,” said Erica Schnee, principal of the new school. “The windows are going up in the commons, so it’s really coming together and starting to feel more like a building and less like a construction site.”

The tennis courts, running track, softball fields, bleachers and landscaping are all done. Crews finished paving Monday, and the focus is shifting from the building’s exterior to the interior, said Roger Davis of Langlas & Associates, the general contractor.

“We’re a little ahead of schedule,” Davis said. “It’s going really well. We’re ready for the snow now.”

Schnee said out of nearly 1,000 organizational tasks that have to be finished before Bozeman’s second high school opens in August 2020, more than half are complete.

In the past year, the Bozeman School Board approved the new school’s name (Gallatin High), mascot (the Raptors), colors (royal blue and black), attendance boundaries and student transfer policy.

Last week the graphic design firm Classic Ink of Bozeman was chosen to come up with the school’s new Raptor logo, which will be needed by next month when the gym floor goes in.

Schnee said she has been researching raptors at the Museum of the Rockies and learned that discoveries of deinonychus in Montana in the 1960s helped spark the “dinosaur renaissance.” People started to see dinosaurs as ancestors of modern birds, she said, and it changed the image of dinosaurs — from large, slow and dumb to “active, intelligent and social.”

“Those are great qualities for a high school,” Schnee said. Not only are raptors “vicious and terrifying,” good qualities for sports teams, she said, but they also revolutionized an academic field, “a good quality for a school to have.”

The new school is slated to open next fall with about 900 students in ninth, 10th and 11th grades. All seniors will stay their final year at Bozeman High, so it will have about 1,500 students next year. The following year, both schools will have seniors and both should enroll about 1,200 students.

Gallatin High will have AA varsity teams in all sports, including football, next fall. That means lots of opportunities for freshmen, sophomores and juniors to step up and be leaders, Schnee said.

This Friday is the deadline for students to apply to transfer from one high school to the other. Students will be allowed to transfer out of their attendance area to keep siblings at the same school, or if a parent works at one school, or for legal, safety, academic or health reasons.

Starting in November, job openings at the new school will be posted for teachers and coaches.

Student registration for classes will be held earlier than usual, in December instead of February, to help determine how many teachers will be needed at each school. Class offerings are based on how many students sign up.

The new school will likely have 45 to 60 teachers the first year, Schnee said. Many teachers face a hard decision, whether to stay at Bozeman High or apply to transfer.

“I think a lot of teachers are really torn,” she said. “They feel an allegiance to Bozeman High, and they’re excited about something new.”

The goal is to make the two high schools equally attractive, not just in buildings but in teachers’ skills and the quality of instruction, she said. So this year Bozeman High teachers are teaching lots of classes they haven’t taught before, from Advanced Placement to electives, using this year to collaborate and learn from each other.

Superintendent Bob Connors said in a news release that all this behind-the-scenes work “will ensure a smooth transition for students, staff and administrators.”

Meanwhile, furniture samples have been ordered so that students can give some feedback in October.

June 1 is the deadline for Langlas to turn over the keys to the new school, Swinehart said. That will give teachers, staff and administrators all summer to move in, try out everything and make sure there are no problems when classes start.

To help make the building more environmentally sustainable, geothermal wells have been installed at the new school. Swinehart said he’s optimistic that state agencies will approve permits for the wells. The building is also set up to support solar panels in the future.

Voters passed a $125 million bond issue in 2017 to build Bozeman’s second high school and renovate Bozeman High to cope with enrollment growth. Once the new school is ready and half the students can move out of Bozeman High, construction will begin at the original high school, including a new two-story classroom, a new student commons and new auditorium.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2633. Follow her on Twitter @gailnews.

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