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BROWNING - A new high school is being dedicated today on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in northwest Montana.

Browning High School will be able to handle more than 700 students, has floor tiles patterned in traditional symbols and views of the Rocky Mountain Front.

A few classrooms also have views of sacred Blackfeet landmark Chief Mountain.

"(This is) a beautiful new building that our students and our staff will take so much pride in," Principal Janet Guardipee told the Great Falls Tribune.

The school replaces the old high school that was built in the 1950s and was designed for 300 students but in recent years had been serving about 600.

The new gym will be able to hold 3,500 fans, up from 2,000 at the old school.

"It was very important for the community; our sports teams are something we're very proud of," said Mary Johnson, superintendent of the Browning School District.

"Everybody understood academics first, but (the community) said this is important. Our kids need to compete in a place where we could all get in and support them."

The district in 1998 started saving 15 percent of federal "impact aid" money it receives annually to compensate for trust land that can't be taxed, said Johnson, eventually accumulating $10 million.

The district also issued $8.3 million in bonds after the Legislature began allowing reservations to pay off construction bonds with impact aid money.

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An additional $3 million for the new school was added through a mill levy.

In 2003, a former school receptionist sold 320 acres west of Browning to the school district, and ground was broken in the spring of 2007 for the new school.

Including the land purchase, Johnson said the total cost of the school is between $22 million and $23 million.

Classes begin Aug. 26, and students will walk through a tepee-style entrance and learn in classrooms painted in earth tones.

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