Voters Overwhelmingly Approve Bigfork School Renovation

Unofficial tally shows 1,810 votes in favor of the bond and 955 against

By Dillon Tabish

Voters overwhelmingly approved a bond request for $14 million to redevelop Bigfork High School.

Lacey Porrovecchio, business manager for the school district, announced the election results late Friday.

Mail-in ballots were due back Oct. 9 and the unofficial tally shows 1,810 votes in favor of the bond and 955 against, according to Porrovecchio.

Results will be official after further review by the school board at an upcoming meeting.

“Obviously just very excited for the whole community,” Bigfork Superintendent Matt Jensen said afterward.

The decision gives administrators the green light to move forward with a significant makeover of a 50-year-old building that is already out of space amid rising enrollment.

School administrators had failed to gain voter approval for renovating the high school twice in the last decade.

The third time proved successful as district-wide enrollment continues to increase and more classes are shuffled into the middle school building. Administrators have said the high school is in dire need of redevelopment.

Jensen credited the support of community members for spreading awareness about the school’s needs.

An independent site assessment last year found structural issues and growing needs throughout the campus, including more classroom space.

“We’ve had absolutely amazing support,” he said, highlighting residents such as Dev Johnson, Jen Bach, Marshelle Wade and Brad and Leslie Stodghill. “I could name at least 50 people who have just done amazing things.”

Property taxes for a home valued at $200,000 will increase by roughly $70 annually, according to school district estimates.

Construction could begin in the spring of 2016 and be completed by fall 2018. The renovation project will progress in priority phases. The school’s priorities are adding new classroom space to ensure all high school students are taking classes in the high school instead of the middle school.

The site will also be better compartmentalized and space will be used more efficiently for classes and other school programs, according to planners. The wood and auto shop will be renovated and upgraded to modern safety standards. The science laboratory and facilities will similarly be updated. Special education classes, which are currently conducted in a closet space, will be provided an adequate classroom area. Also, the parking lot area around the high school and middle school will be reconfigured and possibly expanded to improve circulation, parking and safety issues.

An estimated 24,000 square feet of new space will be built onto the existing building, according to the project plan.

The construction costs are estimated at $9.3 million. Site development costs are estimated at $1.1 million. Another $1.4 million would go toward overall project needs, such as fees, permits, surveying and materials testing in the old facility. Administrators recommended a 20 percent contingency fund in case there are any cost overruns, and the targeted contingency amount is $2 million. The total estimated cost would be $13.8 million.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.