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The sun starts to set April 7, 2015 on the City/School Administration Center.

Journal file

For the first time, students at Western Dakota Technical Institute could have the option of living on campus, and may even be able to move in within the year.

Speaking to the Rapid City School Board on Monday evening, Brian Watland, Western Dakota Tech vice president for finance and operations, unveiled tentative plans to buy several modular homes to install on school property.

Opened in 1968, Western Dakota Tech has a current enrollment of 1,073 students. Of the state’s four technical colleges, it is the only one that does not have on-campus housing, Watland said. It’s a missing feature that comes up often in conversations with students and parents at the admissions office.

“Affordable housing is a big issue in Rapid City and a big issue for our students,” Watland said. “And we want to make sure we have the ability to provide housing and help students succeed.”

So when Milestone Energy Services approached the institute with a proposal to use some of the company’s modular homes to meet that need, the technical college's administrators were interested, to say the least.

“It’s just a fabulous opportunity that has come our way,” Watland said.

According to the company’s website, Milestone Energy Services has used its modular homes to provide housing for corporations like Halliburton and others in the crude oil industry in Wyoming, Minnesota, and North Dakota in the Bakken oil fields.

Several of the homes are becoming available as business has declined in those areas.

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Similar to mobile homes in appearance, the modular homes, measuring 28 feet by 64 feet, are divided into six individual bedrooms, each of which is completely furnished with desks, beds and cabinetry.

“That’s all the way down to the silverware, the linens and everything else,” Watland told the school board.

Each of the bedrooms would have its own color television, refrigerator, temperature controls and its own entrance and exit to the outside. The occupants would share a common living room and kitchen area equipped with a dishwasher, stove, oven and microwave. Each one is certified to the standards of the International Building Code.

Western Dakota Tech officials are in the early stages of exploring this as an option, so details such as location, total cost, and number of units to be purchased remain to be seen. But if everything goes smoothly, Watland said, he’d like to see them ready for students to move into by the fall semester this year.

“It would be phenomenal for our community, and it would help our school out,” Watland said.

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Education/County Reporter

Education/county reporter for the Rapid City Journal.