STEVENSVILLE - If there was a take-home message for parents and other members of the Stevensville schools community Wednesday evening it was something akin to "hang on to your hats."
School district superintendent Kent Kultgen told a community gathering that construction plans on two new buildings will be accelerated because the district is required to spend funds from an $828,000 state grant by next summer.
"This is going to be an exciting time," Kultgen said, after Paradigm Architects of Missoula showed a movie with a 3-dimensional rendering of the 25-classroom, 52,000-square-foot schoolhouse for grades four through eight.
The sped-up construction schedule to build two buildings- one to house 25 classrooms for grades four through eight and another to house the multipurpose/lunch room and music and choir facilities - will mean longer school days, a shortened school year and some displacement of classrooms, according to Kultgen.
In total the project is penciled out to the tune of a $9.7 million budget, much of which will go into the local economy, according to building consultant Paul Bishop of Construction Solutions.
The work will begin in earnest in July though crews will begin putting up fencing and laying out the construction zone starting next week.
The contracts for the first phase of the work, including demolition, dirt work, concrete and placement of utilities, were all awarded to local companies, according to Scott Bruner of Swank Enterprises, who will be construction manager on the project.
Phase two bidding begins June 17.
Because the bids came in so low for Phase 1 - $150,000 below the projected cost, according to Bishop - plans for the new classroom building may be expanded to add two additional classrooms, Kultgen said.
The new buildings will replace the 1901 junior high building and the 1924 fourth through sixth grade building. Voters passed an $8.8 million bond last fall to pay for the classroom building and the Montana Department of Commerce awarded an $880,000 Quality Schools grant to go toward the multipurpose facility.
Kultgen said as the job of constructing buildings overlaps with the job of teaching children, some adjustments will likely be needed once administrators and teachers see how everything plays out - the key will be having some patience.
"Our track record shows that we are going to have to do something that will last for 110 years," Kultgen said. "So we're trying to do it right ... The main thing to focus on is, what a fantastic time for our community and our kids."
Speaking of 1901, there were some questions about whether the junior high building would yield a time capsule.
Kultgen said he has heard that there is one, though history buffs will have to wait until January - when the old building comes down - to find out.
The following year-long changes to the Stevensville schools 2010-2011 regimen were discussed:
• Parking for students will be across the street from campus on the corner of Park and 5th Street.
• Parking for teachers will be divided between the current parking lot and the east side, near the athletic field.
• To accommodate new bus drop-offs and pick-ups, there will be no parking on much of Phillips Street.
• Parent drop-off will be located on Park Street south of Phillips.
• Morning bus schedules will be moved up anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes to get students to school by 8:05 a.m.
• The start of the school year will remain Sept. 7, while the end of the school year will come nearly a month early on May 6.
• To compensate for the lost days, the school day will start 15 minutes early and end 15 minutes late, and the Monday of Easter Break will be dropped.
• Breakfasts will be eaten in the classroom, lunches in a cordoned off section of the high school gym.
• The kitchen will temporarily be situated in an outbuilding.
• The preschool will be moved to the north side of the campus.
• Volunteers will move the Vo-Ag greenhouse to a new location.
Once construction begins on the multipurpose building - which requires the removal of the junior high - there will be widespread changes in classroom assignments, including a plan to house the fourth grade at Stevensville's Mormon church.
Stevensville trustee Kirk Thompson said the important thing is getting through to the end result.
"It's really about us working on simply getting our facilities up to a modern standard, as well as reducing the money we have to spend on our energy bills," Thompson said. "We want to give our kids a good place to learn."
Reporter Sepp Jannotta can be reached at 363-3300 or email@example.com.