The Stevensville School Board voted unanimously to proceed with bond elections for both the Stevensville High School and Elementary School Districts in May, 2019. If passed, the bonds will address enrollment growth, special education space, Agricultural and Industrial Trades & Technology, renovations to buildings and grounds, safety, building access, and parking.
The bond proposal for the Stevensville Elementary School District is $6,369,000, and the proposal for the Stevensville High School District is $14,169,000.
In January 2019, Stevensville Public Schools conducted a mail survey of all voting households in the Stevensville and Lone Rock School Districts. The three items on the survey that received the most support from voters were the primary school remodel, the high school remodel, and the construction of a new Industrial Trades & Technology building. Stevensville business owners and community members surveyed supported the addition of the Agricultural and Industrial Trades & Technology building over athletic facilities repairs. Athletic facility repairs and improvements previously included in the failed 2018 school bond election are not included in the 2019 election.
Greg Trangmoe, board chair, summarized the board decision, stating the district is only asking the public to cover basic facility needs.
“Costs will continue to rise for these projects and the state has not shown a willingness to move forward with solutions to address aging schools across Montana,” said Trangmoe. “Instead, the current trend is to shift the burden to local districts, where school leaders and taxpayers can decide how to invest in their individual districts.”
The elementary bond proposal addresses significant needs for the K-3 building. The current building has exceeded classroom capacity, and a busy computer lab was repurposed as the last available space for a regular classroom. The proposal would create additional classrooms, an entry vestibule with office, and connect the present elementary school to the elementary gymnasium.
The original building was constructed in 1980 with an addition in 1989. If passed, the construction bond will address deferred maintenance issues identified by the State of Montana School Facilities Study conducted in 2008. Deferred maintenance estimates in the K-3 building exceed $1 million, and the state has done little to address funding for these issues.
The district proposal also solves student safety, traffic, and parking issues by relocating the elementary playground and providing parking so students would not cross Phillips Street to access the playground three times per day. Other portions of the project would update the grounds and outdoor facilities used by students in grades K-8.
The high school building was constructed in 1960 with additions in 1971 and 1979. The high school gym was constructed in 1973. No major renovations have occurred in the last 38 years. Because these buildings are older, the renovation needs are more extensive. This problem is compounded by a lack of collaborative learning spaces, building access control at entrances, and a lack of parking.
Energy efficiency is another major issue in the outdated high school. The current boilers were installed in 1960 and 1995. The original boiler is at its useful age limit and the newer unit is not energy efficient. In addition, parts for the existing heating and ventilation system in classrooms are non-existent. Renovating the boilers, heating, and ventilation systems would cost several hundred thousand dollars but provide long-term energy savings. The project also includes energy efficient windows and other long-term efficiency updates.
Other key renovations will include updates to classrooms, technology, and student common areas such as the Library Media Center. Based on community input, the plan creates a versatile, student-friendly learning center that supports high volumes of students in a collaborative and interactive learning environment. As with any renovation, federal law requires all updated buildings meet current fire, health, and disability accessibility standards.
“The District has worked to address facilities concerns with a limited budget,” said Stevensville Superintendent Bob Moore. “However, the age of the facilities, the need for modern labs, and safety concerns have exceeded our ability to adequately fund repairs and renovations. We recognize that the school is a large investment for the Stevensville community and we want our community pride to show and protect the investment by updating educational facilities to invest in the future of our children.”
The school district will be hosting numerous informational events regarding the bond issues prior to the mailing of ballots in April. Open houses are scheduled for March 26 from 4 to 6 p.m., April 4 from 5 to 7 p.m., April 11 from 7 to 9 p.m., and April 17 from 4 to 6 p.m.
For more information and a schedule of events, visit https://www.stevensvilleschools.org/2019-school-bond/