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Marion schools are running out of classroom space, ask voters to approve bond

Marion Schools
Posted at 5:55 PM, Sep 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-15 20:54:14-04

MARION — The small community of Marion sits roughly 20 miles west of Kalispell off Highway 2 tucked away in the Montana wilderness.

Despite being in a rural area, the K-8 school district says they’re growing at an alarming rate and are bursting at the seams.

The school district is requesting an $8.2 million bond to voters, which school officials said would add classroom space while getting school safety up to code.
One building in dire need of upgrades was built back in 1904.

“We’re packing 30 kids into an 800 square foot classroom and expecting them to learn at a high level, and that’s a lot to ask of both teachers and students,” said Marion Superintendent Julia Maxwell.

The small K-8 school district in Marion has close to 200 students enrolled this school year, a massive increase from just 10 years ago.

“We were about 100 very consistently, and the last 10 years, not including this year, we’ve grown 61% which is very huge for a building that was really built for about 100 kids,” added Maxwell.

Maxwell said the district is asking voters to approve an $8.2 million bond over 20 years, which would raise taxes by roughly $23 a month for properties valued at $400,000.

She said the bond would add classrooms and expand existing kitchen and restroom space while connecting the two main school buildings.

“We would like to combine two buildings to make sure that those students are covered, warm, safe, out of harm’s way, while also creating enough space for our students to have those learning opportunities.”

Middle School Teacher Deborah Johnson has taught at Marion School District for 29 years.

The building she teaches in is more than 100 years old and doesn’t even have hallways for students to walk from one classroom to another.

“And so the kids do really well because they’re very adaptable because they just learn to kind of ignore that, but it’s kind of like having a freeway kind of right through your classroom sometimes.”

Johnson said teachers simply don’t have enough space to properly teach their students.

“In middle school I teach sometimes a robotics elective, a woodworking elective, plus a Spanish class, plus a math class, plus an English class, so having storage for all of those materials, and all those projects and all of that stuff is really a challenge.”

Maxwell said the gymnasium is currently doubling as the cafeteria.

“If this doesn’t pass, we’re at the point where we’re going to have to cut the gym in half and use it as a transitional classroom space, which causes even more issues in the long-term.”

Ballots will be mailed out to voters on October 18 and are due by election day, November 7.

Maxwell said the district will be offering walking tours of the school grounds for community members beginning at the end of September. Those interested in joining a tour are asked to contact the school district at 406-854-2333.