Construction can officially begin soon on West Fargo School District’s third high school, Horace High School.

The School Board awarded the general construction project bid, along with alternatives, to Fargo-based Gast Construction Company for a total of $42 million.

District officials received bids from three general contractors along with mechanical and electrical contractors. Business Manager Levi Bachmeier said the base bids were within one-half percent of what the district budgeted.

“We were within 1% of the established budget for this project, between the original base bid and what we received from the three main contractors,” he said.

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General contractor bids were $31 million from Meinecke Johnson Company, $30 million from Gast Construction and $32 million from TF Powers Construction.

Along with mechanical and electrical work, the district budgeted a total of $39.5 million to build the new high school. That does not include on-site athletic facilities, which are part of another bid process that began with bids opening Tuesday, Feb. 18.

Since the general bids were slightly over the budgeted amount, Bachmeier said he reviewed the projects that have already been started and funded by the $106.1 million bond referendum. He found the district had a sizable surplus after it saved substantial money on projects such as Heritage Middle School and turf installation at all three schools.

“Overall, we have a fund balance of just under $5 million,” Bachmeier said.

Since the district would have bond money remaining to fund the slightly higher bids for the high school as well as other projects, Bachmeier suggested including alternatives.

The district had considered building the high school as a two-pod school with a possible third pod in the future. Bachmeier said it would make sense to just build three pods initially, as well as add upgraded parking lot finishes, commons flooring upgrades and vinyl wall coverings in lieu of paint, all items which tend to last longer and have more durability.

“We thought it would be money well spent at this point in time,” Bachmeier said.

The upgrades will use about $2.6 million of the surplus, he said, which will still leave about $2.4 million, or just under half, for future projects such as next year's Horace Elementary upgrades and ongoing security upgrades.

A third West Fargo middle school is under construction near the future high school. It is slated to open next fall. Both schools were part of a $106.1 million bond referendum district voters overwhelmingly approved in 2018. Construction of the new high school will begin this spring with plans to open it in fall 2021.