The Stevensville School Board is hoping voters will pass bonds totaling $20.5 million for the Stevensville High School and Elementary School Districts in May.
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. The bonds address enrollment growth, special education space, agricultural and industrial trades and technology, renovations to buildings and grounds, safety, building access and parking.
Last May, Stevensville and Lone Rock voters rejected two bonds totaling $22.6 million for Stevensville high school and elementary districts.
Stevensville Superintendent Bob Moore said the school board considered community surveys and staff input to create bonds that are different from those that failed last May.
“The major difference between the bonds is that based on the survey of voting households in the Stevensville community there was more support for actual building renovations and not for repair and deferred maintenance on our athletic facilities,” Moore said. “We also found support for an industrial technology and agricultural center.”
The new bond would fund an industrial trades technology and agricultural center as an annex to the high school building, add classrooms, supervision and a hallway on the south side of the high school.
“We would move the district office, add a couple of classrooms and be able to supervise that main entrance on the south side of the high school, almost everything else is identical,” Moore said. “Basically we cut out all of the athletic [upgrades], with the exception of the high school gym, the deferred maintenance and renovations to that have to happen.”
In December, the school board gave the K-12 school staff a rough-draft of the survey to make sure it was on point, readable and free of confusing issues. Staff feedback was considered.
In January, 4,123 surveys were mailed to all voting households in the Stevensville and Lone Rock School Districts with 413 surveys returning.
“Every household that had a registered voter had a chance to have feedback into this survey,” Moore said. “We had a 10 percent return on that survey which is a statistical average for a ballot survey.”
Responses indicated a priority for remodeling the primary school and the high school and constructing an industrial trades and technology building ahead of athletic facilities repairs.
The athletic facility repairs and improvements included in the failed 2018 school bond election are not included in the current bond.
Board Chairman Greg Trangmoe said the district is asking the public to cover only 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,” Trangmoe said. “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 specifics of the bonds are similar to last year’s as the school needs have not changed.
The elementary bond proposal covers the K-3 building needs as the enrollment has exceeded classroom capacity even with the school changing a busy computer lab into a regular classroom.
The bond funding would allow the school to build additional classrooms, add an entry vestibule with office, connect the elementary school to the elementary gymnasium and address deferred maintenance.
Over $1 million in deferred maintenance needs were identified in 2008 by the State of Montana School Facilities Study.
Issues of elementary student safety, traffic and parking would be solved by the relocation of the playground which would become a parking lot eliminating students having to cross Phillips Street three times per day. The K-8 grounds and outdoor facilities would also be updated.
The high school bond proposal covers the building needs as the building was construction in 1960, with additions in 1971 and 1979, and the gym in 1973.
No major renovations have occurred in the last 38 years and the needs are extensive.
The school would increase energy efficiency by replacing boilers (installed in 1960 and 1995), upgrading heating and ventilation system in classrooms and adding energy efficient windows.
The bond would address the need for collaborative learning spaces, monitored entrances and additional parking. Other key renovations would include updates to classrooms, technology and student common areas such as the library media center. Community input recommended creating a versatile, student-friendly learning center to supports high volumes of students. All renovations are designed to meet current fire, health and disability accessibility standards.
Moore said the Stevensville School District has worked to address facilities concerns within a limited budget.
“However, the age of the facilities, the need for modern labs and safety concerns has exceeded our ability to adequately fund repairs and renovations,” he said. “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.”
Moore said the school needs the bonds to pass and the district will host informational events prior to the mailing of ballots in April. For more information and a schedule of events, visit www.stevensvilleschools.org/2019-school-bond/.