Since March of 2020, DPS, Dickinson State University, Trinity Catholic Schools, the Roughrider Area Career and Technical Center have teamed up to create a task force of 22 members to jumpstart the project. The task force has held 19 meetings and numerous subcommittee meetings that developed tentative programs of study, established a governance board in March and are now finalizing a business plan.

In November 2020, DPS purchased the former Halliburton campus for $6 million, which includes seven buildings — five of which will be remodeled for educational purposes. The preliminary estimate for renovations to convert the complex’s buildings from industrial use to educational is approximately $8 million.

On Wednesday, DSU President Stephen Easton, SCTE Task Force Chairman Vince Reep, DPS CTE Director Marcus Lewton and DPS Assistant Superintendent Keith Harris along with DPS Community Relations Coordinator Sarah Trustem visited the Halliburton campus and addressed how this project is going to move the city forward.

CTE Director Marcus Lewton (right) of Dickinson Public Schools speaks with Assistant Superintendent Keith Harris and Community Relations Coordinator Sarah Trustem Wednesday, April 14, at the Halliburton campus in Dickinson, regarding their efforts to transform the buildings into the Southwest CTE Academy. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

CTE Director Marcus Lewton (right) of Dickinson Public Schools speaks with Assistant Superintendent Keith Harris and Community Relations Coordinator Sarah Trustem Wednesday, April 14, at the Halliburton campus in Dickinson, regarding their efforts to transform the buildings into the Southwest CTE Academy. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

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“It’s important to note on this that one of the pillars or foundational pieces of what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to provide opportunities for kids or for people. It’s not an extension of any school district or university… but this is an organization that is there to support and help provide opportunity for all kids whether you’re a DSU student, a Trinity high school student, a Dickinson Public Schools student, a South Heart student,” Harris said. “It is to provide opportunity, and because of that entity, it’s able to support programs that provide opportunities for all students. And so, this is really an entity that not just a school district can get behind but public from all around southwest North Dakota and everybody can get behind it. Because if it’s done right and we get our job done, it’ll benefit everyone.”

Meeting demands of local labor force

Lewton noted that one of the task force’s main principles is to “train and retain” students in southwestern North Dakota. For example, if a high school senior learns the trades of a welder at the SCTE Academy, that student will be prepped for a possible internship with a manufacturer in the area, such as Steffes.

This project is critical in developing and expanding workforce opportunities in North Dakota. Another reason for the establishment of the SCTE Academy is due to the overcrowding areas at DPS with its CTE areas, Lewton said.

But before the SCTE Academy can take off, it’s important to have a “conduit” of those on the task force and governance board working together, he remarked.

“I think the biggest opportunity is the pathway it provides for different organizations — whether that’s Dickinson Public (Schools), Trinity, DSU, Stark County, Billings County, Dunn County, whoever — to work