POLSON — The Polson School District is proposing a bond that's all about safety.
When you walk into Cherry Valley Elementary School in Polson, you are overwhelmed with the chatter of kids, colorful walls, and bustling halls. But there is a bigger issue at hand.
“We are packed to the gills right now. So our current situation all of our classrooms are full,” said Cherry Valley Elementary School principal Jon Gustafson.
The total proposed bond amount is $49 million. The high school would receive $17.7 million and $32 million would go to the two elementary schools and the middle school.
Safety has been at the top of the list for this bond initiative, with more classrooms and updated front door security.
“Well, that is our number one job, is to keep our kids safe and kind of in the world we live in and kind of all the unknowns like that's kind of what we want to do first and foremost,” Gustafson told MTN News.
Although voters didn't pass a similar bond just over two years ago, Polson School District Superintendent Mike Culter, says the district has a history of using bond money well.
He noted they have received an “A” rating for their past use of bond money.
“Polson Schools has done a very good job of keeping them in mind with, you know, past bond elections and so on and so forth," said Culter.
"And with that A rating, the interest rate obviously, is lower than it would be if it was a much lower rating," Cutler continued.
Ballots will be mailed out on April 13 and due back on May 3.
Below is additional information provided by the Polson School District to MTN News:
The Polson School Board recently voted unanimously to proceed with bond elections for both the Polson High School and Elementary School Districts in May 2022. The bond proposal for the Polson Elementary School District is approximately $32 million, and the proposal for the Polson High School District is approximately $17.7 million.
The Polson School District takes pride in the work done every day by its staff and students. PSD's motto is striving for excellence for everyone, every day. These values define PSD and guide it in its quest to provide one of the best public educations in the state of Montana. Polson Schools have a history of excellence in academics, fine arts, and athletics.
While PSD values its students and their successes in the classroom and out, it is also committed to its taxpayers and the community. Polson School District earned an "A" rating for its financial handling on past bonds run in the district.
The Polson community has seen a steady increase in population and PSD is preparing for the impact of that growth. The increase is leading to overcrowded hallways and classrooms in its schools. This growth has stressed PSD's already aging infrastructure, with the newest school building in the district being over 30 years old.
To prepare for this growth, adequately absorb the increase, and prepare its building for the future, Polson School District worked with teachers, administration, and the school board to develop a plan for the future well-being of its learners. This plan is a comprehensive $49.89 million bond resolution. The goal is direct: to meet the short and long-term needs of the district with renovation and expansion at all schools, to address growth and capacity issues, and to ensure all students are receiving a high-quality education in a safe and secure environment while thoughtfully partnering with the taxpayers and community members we value.
In the last 30 years, PSD has only had one large-scale construction project and that was the construction of the Pirate Sports Complex. The district has recently utilized $4.1 million of one-time federal funds (ESSER) to address heating and ventilation needs across the elementary district. Additionally, PSD listened to its community following the failed bond election in 2019 and scaled back the proposed project's scope and significantly decreased the tax burden.
Polson School District's Elementary Bond proposal would provide just over $32 million for all three elementary schools. This bond will allow for the realignment of our elementary schools allowing Cherry Valley to serve the district's Pre-K through 2nd-grade students and Linderman Elementary to serve the district’s 3rd grade through 5th-grade students. Polson Middle School will serve 6th grade through 8th-grade students. The bond will help expand facilities to alleviate overcrowding. It will also address cafeteria updates, gym expansion, classroom additions, and ultimately the health and safety concerns of each building with updates bringing these buildings up to code.
Additionally, this bond would update Cherry Valley with additional classrooms, a multi-purpose PE and gym practice facility, updated kitchen facilities, and for the first time, a dedicated space for music instruction and performance. There would also be a renovation to the current school to provide a more safe and learning conducive environment for our students.
Linderman Elementary will be updated with additional classrooms, a new library space, updated kitchen facilities, and a new music room. The bond will also renovate Linderman's current learning environments to improve the student experience.
This bond will allow for the renovation of spaces to alleviate overcrowding and improve student restroom accessibility. The 5th-grade realignment will provide adequate classroom spaces for special education, science, technology, engineering, art, and math programs.
Finally, all three elementary schools will receive updated school entrances to enhance student safety and security.
The High School district will be running a separate bond for $17.7 million. The main focus of this proposal is to remove outside modular buildings that have become worn, unsafe, and unhealthy to use, with a sharp focus on student safety. It would also allow expansion of the high school with a new set of classrooms to handle the increase of students, improving the safety and security for all high school students. These classroom additions would add space for new Computer Science and Robotics Programs, a Native American Culture Center that would house an experiential learning program, updated Special Education classrooms, improvements to Career and Technical Education facilities such as Family & Consumer Science, Business Labs, Industrial Arts, and a new Welding Lab. Science Labs would be updated to current standards to improve the learning environment for all students. In addition, the entryway to the high school would undergo a renovation to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Finally, all schools would receive an update in health and safety measures, including the addition of security cameras and safety systems. The 2022 PSD bond proposal plan impacts all students in Polson School District and creates a better and more successful educational future by providing adequate space, safety, security measures, and academic and extracurricular opportunities.
Passage of both bond proposals would result in a 25-year loan term. Taxpayers would be affected by the assessed value of their homes per 100 thousand dollars. For example, a $100,000 home would owe $8.86 a month or $106.35 a year and a $200,000 home would owe $17.72 a month or $212.70 a year, continuing up per $100,000 valuation of your home.
Voters will have the opportunity to vote on the two available propositions. Ballots for the bond election will be mailed on April 13, 2022, and due back by May 3, 2022. If you have any questions or like more information, visit www.polson.k12.mt.us [polson.k12.mt.us].
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated the bond would be split between the high school and three elementary schools.