Missoula middle schools construction projects on track - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Missoula middle schools construction projects on track

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MISSOULA - There's still a lot of work to accomplish, but the finish line is starting to appear for Missoula County Public Schools' bold vision to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade, and even replace, many of the district's aging schools. 

Enrollment pressure on the district's middle schools has administrators, trustees and staff anxious for the improved spaces coming online soon.

Perhaps nowhere else in the MCPS do you see how the "Smart Schools 2020" dollars are being used for reconfiguration than in the city's three middle schools. All are on different timelines as the projects are phased. 

MTN News joined MCPS Superintendent Mark Thane and trustees Diane Lorenzen and Jennifer Newbold for the latest tour.

We began at C.S. Porter. Principal Lisa Hendricks and her staff are gearing up for a project to not only remodel and modernize the school with new classrooms but building a new wing for art and music.

Across town at Meadow Hill, Principal Chris Stevens and her team are finalizing plans to upgrade the older sixth-grade wing, reconfigure the way the gyms and lunchrooms or commons are used, improve combined space and also eliminate the old, Colstrip-era modular classes, which present a security concern.

"The plans have come together. They're very elegant plans now. They've been well thought out. We've been to all three middle schools and they're all going to be much more compact and well-designed when we're finished," Lorenzen said.

"I think I'm most excited about just the way that we've planned for 21st Century learning, with multi-purpose spaces, maker spaces, those kinds of things, where kids can come together and have that space to collaborate. And you actually see that starting to shape in some of these buildings. which is really neat," Newbold told MTN News.

Things are even further along at Washington Middle School. Contractors just finished laying the foundation for the new lunchroom, and assembly building, part of an expansion filling in the vacant center of the property, moving music rooms and creating a more current, and secure administrative area and office. And again, providing more classrooms.

"Yeah, I think when we talked we're heading for 8-grades of each level in each of the middle schools. And we will have classrooms space for that. We'll have a lot of breakout space for specialty work that people do in small groups," Lorenzen said.

"I think we don't what educations going to look like twenty years from now. So all you can really do is just try to anticipate and create the space for it," Newbold added.

Above all, the trustees are thanking all the staff and parents for putting up with the construction.

"Oh yeah, that's not easy. It creates a lot of chaos. I think though everyone's going to realize how worth it is once the end product is here for certain. Because all you have to do is walk around these schools and see what shape they're in and how needed all of this was," Newbold said.

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