Under rainy skies in a wide-open meadow on the southern outskirts of Kalispell, the first official shovels scooped into dirt and initiated an historic groundbreaking for the city’s first new elementary school in 30 years.
“We don’t do this often, but when we do, let’s do this right just like our parents and grandparents did for us,” Lance Isaak, vice chair of the Kalispell Public Schools Board of Trustees, said beforehand.
June 13 marked the official commencement of construction at the future elementary facility on Airport Road, and the occasion elicited celebration from the crowd of community members. Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines both sent representatives to read letters of praise and congratulations for investing in students and making a positive impact on future generations of Montana residents.
Mark Flatau, superintendent of Kalispell Public Schools, thanked the community for supporting the $54 million bond requests, which voters approved last fall.
Now it’s time to get to work. The city’s public school district is embarking on its largest undertaking in history by tackling upgrades and construction at each of the 10 schools. It’s also building a brand new site, the first since Edgerton was completed in 1987.
Dani Griebe, an architect with L’Heureux Page Werner Architecture, unveiled the latest renderings of the future $15 million facility, which will be able to accommodate roughly 450 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
Griebe said the new school will feature an exterior design that complements the surrounding area. The inside will include “pods” of learning communities with a gym and commons area. The school will embrace new technology. It will be completed by fall of 2018.
“We hope this facility will be able to accommodate modern learning styles,” Griebe said.
While construction is underway, the school district is embarking on two important processes along the way: naming the facility and creating new elementary school district boundaries.
The school board will begin formally accepting nominations for names this fall with an October deadline. A selection committee will review the nominations in November and recommend a name to the school board in December. The criteria for nominating someone for the naming rights of the new school are: the person has contributed to the development of the community; has played a key role in support of youth; served as an elected official in service to the community, region or state; contributed in other positive ways in support of youth and the community.
The school district is also preparing to develop new boundaries for elementary district schools, and that process will begin soon with the goal of developing alternative options through public meetings and proposing a recommendation to the school board by January 2018, Flatau said.