Big Changes at Bigfork School

By Beacon Staff

BIGFORK – Driving by the orange cones, heavy machinery and dirt, it may not look like Bigfork Elementary will be ready for the first day of classes, but Superintendent Russ Kinzer said construction is right on schedule.

There will, however, be several changes when the school does open its doors. Registration, starting on Aug. 25, will take place at the superintendent’s office on Grand Avenue instead of at the school. Parents and students won’t get a chance to check out the classrooms before the first day, so staff will meet students off the bus and escort them into the building because the south entrance will be closed. And, finally, school starts a week later than usual, Sept. 8, to give the contractors more time to work. With the later opening, the district has tacked 10 minutes to each day, with classes this year running to 3:10 p.m.

“There will be different parts of the school boarded up,” Bigfork Elementary Principal Jackie Boshka said. “It will look like a construction zone. But it will be safe, and there will be signs up directing people.”

On the first day, parents will merge into the new lane on Commerce Street and drive up to the new front entrance to drop off their children. The new road and parking lot in front of the school are scheduled to be paved and marked for traffic by then. Parking will still be tight, though, because the construction crew is using the upper lot by the football field.

Hammerquist & Casalegno, the general contractor for the project, added the entrance and administrative offices to their list of sections to be completed by day one.

“They’ve done really well with understanding the school’s needs and adjusting their work schedule accordingly,” Kinzer said.

In total, crews are adding a new turning lane, parking, a new art room, a science room with a lab and additional classrooms for first, fourth, fifth and sixth grades.

“That will be the first time the sixth grade will be in the school since 1992,” Boshka said. “It will be great to have them back in the building.”

Some students, however, will still use the portable classrooms as construction continues through the school year, and Boshke said they will move back into the main building as soon as they can.

The school had to cut an additional bathroom and one Title One room, space used for tutoring and special education, because of cost increases.

“By cutting those things out, it saved quite a bit of cost,” says Kinzer, “But we still got the changes we wanted.”

Despite ongoing construction during the school year Kinzer and Boshka say the school will be operational.

“Every day I look at it and go ‘will we be ready?’ But we will be ready,” says Boshka, “One of our biggest challenges will be having all this construction going on and still stay focused.”