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The Department of Defense is giving the cash-strapped Tooele School District $13.2 million to build a new high school to replace the aging one at the Army's Dugway Proving Ground.

"I'm happy, to put it mildly," said Dugway High School principal Robin Nielson. "The good news has spread fast."

The district will have to chip in just $2.7 million in matching funds for the $15.9 million project, and that amount has already been budgeted, Nielson said. "It will not raise taxes or require a new bond."

The Tooele District's new superintendent, Scott A. Rogers, called the grant "a huge deal" for the district. "Great for Dugway kids, staff and families! Woohoo!" he said in an email statement.

Rogers took over in July, just after the school board voted to slash district spending by $1.4 million and tap reserves for another $1 million this budget year.

While the grant comes at a good time, the district's financial status had nothing to do with the grant decision.

The Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment has a program to help public schools on military bases and gives priority to those schools with the most serious capacity or facility deficiencies, a news release said.

In Dugway's case, one factor was that the school, built in 1959, lacks a cafeteria, Nielson said. Students now walk 200 yards to the elementary school for lunch, Nielson said.

Most of its students, in grades seven through 12, live on base, but some also are bused in from Skull Valley and the town of Terra. A few students from Rush Valley and Tooele, 45 miles away, enroll at Dugway because their parents work on base. Dugway Proving Ground has 676 residents, said base spokeswoman Paula Thomas.

The superintendent said there will be community meetings to gather input about the design for the new school.

Groundbreaking is planned for the spring, and the school should be ready by fall 2015, Nielson said.

The new building will serve 120 students in grades seven through 12, although it will have a capacity to serve 350 if the district decides to also replace the nearby elementary school.

"A new building always enhances the community; the students will be able to have a 21st century facility that will help them become career and college ready," the principal said.

Col. Ronald F. Fizer, commander of Dugway Proving Ground, said in a statement that the new school shows the shared commitment the Defense Department and school district have "to ensure that our students have the greatest opportunities to receive an outstanding education."

Twitter: @KristenMoulton

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