STEVENSVILLE – Imagine depending on a 1958 Ford or Chevy to get to work every single day. Unless your an avid car buff, and accomplished mechanic, it’s something very few would try.
But every single day, Stevensville High School depends on a 60-year old boiler to keep students warm and learning.
It’s one of a number of problems Stevensville School District leaders and supporters hope to remedy if voters will back a pair of bond issues.
While many Montana schools struggle with aging facilities, Stevensville has been in an uphill fight for decades.
The district was able to build a new middle school in 2010. However, the high school dates to 1960 and the core of the elementary will be 40-years old this year.
Voters turned down a larger bond package last year that would have paid for the building improvements, as well as a new athletic center. So school leaders sharpened their pencils and went back to basics.
“But this one of those bonds that we went really and looked at the absolute. What do we need for safety? What do we need for building renovation to make this campus work? And really pick those items out specifically,” Stevensville School Superintendent Robert Moore said.
The result of the surveys is a $6.3 million elementary school bond, and $14.1 million high school bond.
The high school measure would help to reconfigure unused areas into class space, improve flow and safety inside and outside across the campus, and update old systems like heating and lighting.
Moore says the maintenance teams have done wonders over the years, but that 1958 boiler and other tech has to go.
“But at some point in time, it just becomes time where you have to go into a building and really look at your infrastructure,” Moore told MTN News. “[In] 1958, we weren’t thinking about wireless access to [the] internet. We weren’t thinking about fiber optics. We were thinking about phones in every classroom.”
Other spots, like the 1990 elementary addition, need attention too. Plans call for reworking parking, playgrounds, student pickup and drop-off. And especially to “harden” school entrance and access with security cameras, airlocks and other features.
“You know, in the 1950s we tried to make schools an inviting, open place where everybody could walk in and out. Now, we still want them to be open and inviting,” Moore said.
“But we want to know who’s in our building in a given time. And we want to make sure they check in, and are cleared to check in and have a purpose to be in our schools,” he added.
The bonds solve the most pressing problems, although some challenges remain. But the district hopes community groups and private sponsors will come forward to help with some of those needs.
“We have a lot of needs in the athletic area, with facilities that are aged and outdated, broken, condemned. There’s all of those issues,” Moore stated. “But we really listened to the community to try to align with what the taxpayers were willing to support.”
Click here for more information on the two bonds that appear on the May 7 ballot.