Split Decision on Bigfork School Bonds Brings Mixed Emotions

By Beacon Staff

“It’s been a long haul. Actually, it’s been an almost two-year process,” says Superintendent Russell Kinzer, “We’re definitely a little tired.”

And a little disappointed. Bigfork’s Board of Trustees put out a request to voters; $11.1 to update the high school and $5.5 million for the elementary school. The high school bond failed, but the elementary bond passed.

“The public has spoken,” says Trustee Mike Roessman. Roessman is the head of the board’s Facilities Committee. He thinks a possible reason for the failure of the high school bond is a disconnection between the school and the community.

“If a lot of the folks who had voted no had a chance to walk through the facility, they would have voted differently,” Roessman says.

“There was a misconception by a lot of folks that this was an expansion, and it wasn’t,” Roessman explains. “It was to deal with the current deficiencies.”

Updates to the elementary school include administrative offices near a new, clearly defined front entrance. New classroom space will move the sixth-graders out of the temporary buildings near the edge of the playground, and back into the school. Improvements to the cafeteria, a new art room, and new science classrooms are also planned.

Both bonds allocated funds to change the parking and traffic flow around the schools. With passage of just the elementary bond, the administration and board hope there are enough funds to create a turning lane on Commerce Street, and separate parking and pick-up/drop-off areas for the schools.

Kinzer says because the parking lots are shared, they may be able to use the elementary bond money for improvements, but they’ll need to do a financial analysis first. Construction bids are still scheduled to go out in January of 2008.

The numbers came in 1,001 for the Bigfork Elementary School bond, and 920 against. For the high school, Swan River, Somers, and Swan Lake joined Bigfork in the vote. The numbers came out 1,249 for the bond, and 1,333 against. Voters in Bigfork were the only ones to have a majority in favor of both bonds.

“It was important for this to pass,” says Roessman, “and unfortunately, it didn’t.”

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