Stevensville school bonds headed for the ballot in spring 2018 - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Stevensville school bonds headed for the ballot in spring 2018

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STEVENSVILLE - Two Stevensville school bonds will be on the ballot this spring, one for the elementary school and the other for the high school.

Stevensville Schools superintendent Bob Moore says the bonds cover deferred maintenance, renovations to buildings and safety projects, and that the bonds will help mitigate the needs of a growing number of students and aging facilities.

There will be public information meetings held over the next several months.

Ballots will be sent out in the spring and due back the first week in May.

“We want to protect the investment of the community," Moore said. "This building still has great value. And if we don’t protect that, then of course your start to have problems in the building and at some point in time, you probably have to spend 35 to 40 million dollars for a new building. We want to protect the community's investment.”

The high school bond would cost $9.3 million and the elementary school bond would cost $13.3 million, both over the course of 20 years.

Stevensville Schools' full release on bond elections is as follows.

The Stevensville School Board voted unanimously to proceed with bond elections for both the Stevensville High School and Elementary School Districts in May, 2018, for deferred maintenance, safety projects, and renovations. The bond proposal for the Stevensville Elementary School District is approximately $9,300,000, and the proposal for the Stevensville High School District is approximately $13,300,000. If passed, the bonds will address deferred maintenance, renovations to buildings and grounds, student safety, sanitation, building access, and parking.

In the spring of 2017 the Stevensville School District commissioned a 15-20 year facilities plan with MMW Architects from Missoula. Relying heavily on input from parents, students, and stakeholders in the community, MMW and a team of contractors and construction engineers studied the entire Stevensville Public Schools facilities and grounds to develop recommendations in the form of a long range facilities plan. From this plan, the Board of Trustees has identified critical renovation, deferred maintenance, and grounds projects that best meet the immediate educational, student safety, and the activity needs of the Stevensville students. Board member Cathi Cook stated that the Facilities Committee “narrowed the architect suggestions to focus the current bond on immediate needs.” She continued that “while there are many things that would be nice to add, this recommendation is near term while other worthwhile projects will have to wait until later in the long-term planning process.” Board Chairman, Greg Trangmoe summarized the board decision when he stated that the district is only asking the public to cover basic facility needs. He explained that, “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. 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 re-purposed 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 $1,000,000, 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 deferred maintenance and 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.

MMW Architects addressed these problems by moving the main entrance and parking to the east side of the current high school. Expanded parking would serve both the instructional building and our current gym and annex shop classrooms.

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 update.

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 handicap accessibility standards.

Another major issue with in the high school is the current track, football, tennis and soccer field area. None of these facilities have running water or sewer connections. This requires hauling potable water and the use of portable toilets. Engineers working with MMW architects identified serious structural concerns with the aging grandstands. These grandstands were purchased from the University of Montana from Dornblaser Stadium over 25 years ago. MMW Architects also identified the fact that the tennis courts are breaking up with age and badly need resurfacing. The track is a non-standard 440 yard dirt/cinder track and does not meet state guidelines for hosting a meet.

In outlining the current Stevensville School District facilities deficiencies, Superintendent, Bob Moore stated, “the District has worked to address facilities concerns with a limited budget.  However, the age of the facilities, and growth in enrollment has 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 in the coming months.

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