Steering Committee to Recommend Three New Schools, $61 Million Bond

The school board will vote whether to follow the recommendation and seek voter approval of a bond

By Dillon Tabish

After nine months of studying and debating an array of options, a committee of school teachers, staff and community members has arrived at a solution for Kalispell’s crowded and outdated elementary district.

The planning committee last week reached a consensus recommendation to build two new elementary schools and a new middle school, along with additional maintenance and remodeling that would cost all together an estimated $61.2 million. Committee members will present their recommendation to the Kalispell School District 5 Board of Trustees at a meeting in May or June, according to Mark Flatau, Kalispell schools superintendent.

The school board will vote whether to follow the recommendation and seek voter approval of a bond in the fall.

If approved, the district would build one of the elementary schools and the middle school at a 25-acre property on Airport Road on the south end of Kalispell. The district purchased the property in 2014 after voters approved the $420,000 acquisition, which was made with funds from a savings account.

The other elementary school would be built on a new piece of property the district is seeking to acquire off Whitefish Stage Road.

By building two new elementary sites and a middle school, the district would address a swelling student population that hit a record 3,018 kids at five schools this fall. Kalispell Middle School, with nearly 1,100 students, is the lone middle school in town and the largest in Montana.

Administrators in the Somers-Lakeside district are still deciding whether they would send an estimated 160-180 middle school students to the new site in south Kalispell if it were built. The district would provide roughly $1 million in state funding to Kalispell for those students.

If voters approve a bond request in fall, the new schools would be the first elementary sites built in Kalispell since 1987, when Edgerton was established.

Flatau said the district would hold community meetings in the coming months to explain the need for the school additions and remodels.

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