Kalispell School Bond Requests Arriving in Voters’ Mailboxes

School district seeking approval for $54 million to build new elementary school, address deferred maintenance

By Dillon Tabish
Eighth-graders work on a gear train during robotics class on Oct. 1, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Residents in Kalispell and the surrounding area are receiving mail-in ballots on Monday, Sept. 19 for two school bond requests for a total of roughly $54 million.

Kalispell Public Schools is seeking voter approval of the bond measures in the elementary and high school districts because of persistent overcrowding and aging facilities.

The ballots are due back by Oct. 4.

The elementary district bond — $25.28 million — would fund the development of a new elementary school on Airport Road along with repairs and updates at the city’s existing five elementary schools and middle school. The new elementary school would relieve overcrowding at the other sites; the district is 225 students over capacity this fall. If approved, the new elementary school would be the first built in Kalispell since 1987, when Edgerton was developed.

The high school bond — $28.76 million — would go toward renovating sections of Flathead High School that are over 100 years old as well as deferred maintenance, along with an expansion of the Agricultural Education Center and upgrades at Linderman Education Center. The bond would also fund maintenance needs at Glacier High School and rebuild parts of Legends Stadium.

Kalispell is among many cities across Montana grappling with growing enrollment and outdated facilities. Last winter, Missoula voters approved bond requests for $88 million for elementary and middle school upgrades and $70 million for high school renovations. Last fall, Bigfork residents approved a bond request for $14 million to redevelop the high school. In 2013, Billings voters approved a $122 million bond to build two new middle schools and address $36 million in deferred maintenance. Bozeman passed a $26.37 million bond in 2012 for a new elementary school and upgrades to its other aging sites.

Principal Pete Fusaro shows outdated areas of Flathead High School on Aug. 18, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon
Principal Pete Fusaro shows outdated areas of Flathead High School on Aug. 18, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon


Breaking Down the Bond Requests

20-year general obligation bonds. Election deadline Oct. 4.

Elementary Bond Request

Encompassing Kalispell city limits

New elementary school        $15.18 million

Upgrade/remodel existing K-5 Schools     $6.25 million

Deferred maintenance at K-5 Schools        $3.42 million

Deferred maintenance at middle school    $412,000

Total cost        $25.28 million

Impact on Taxpayers

Home Value                                  Yearly            Monthly

$170,655 (Kalispell median)          $99.68                 $8.31

$200,000                                           $116.82               $9.74

$300,000                                            $175,23              $14.61

$400,000                                            $233.64              $19.48


Students over capacity at Kalispell’s five elementary schools. The newest elementary school — Edgerton — was built in 1987 and the oldest elementary school — Hedges — was built in 1929. School officials say deferred maintenance and other issues have emerged in each of the facilities along with overcrowding. Many families have also been unable to send their students to their neighborhood school due to overfilled classrooms, school officials say.


Capacity, in students, at the elementary school proposed on Airport Road. The school district bought the 25-acre land two years ago hoping to build a new elementary site with bond funds. The new school would relieve pressure on each of the other five schools.


Students in Kalispell’s five elementary schools and middle school last fall, the most on record and 521 more than 10 years ago. As Kalispell’s population grows at the second fastest rate in Montana, school officials say enrollment will continue to swell, putting outsized pressure on the existing schools.

Deferred Maintenance/Renovation Proposals

– Roof repairs

– Replacing outdated and inefficient heating and ventilation systems

– Safety and security improvements, including updating fire alarm systems, installing security cameras, one-button classroom lockdown systems and updating the public address systems

– New gymnasium space at Russell, Peterson and Elrod; renovate existing gym space into flexible teaching/multi-use areas

– Create new multi-purpose room at Hedges and cafeteria renovations to add teaching space

– Renovate and improve existing spaces to increase teaching space

High School Bond Request

Encompassing Kalispell city limits and 13 surrounding rural districts in the county

Flathead deferred maintenance and renovations            $19.28 million

Ag-Center renovations         $4.64 million

Linderman renovations        $3.44 million

Legends Stadium      $958,100

Glacier maintenance $426,900

Total Cost       $28.76 million

Impact on Taxpayers

Home Value                                  Yearly            Monthly

$170,655 (Kalispell median)          $49.89               $3.65

$197,563 (County median)             $57.75                 $4.16

$200,000                                            $58.46               $4.87

$300,000                                            $87.69                $7.31

$400,000                                             $116.92               $9.74


The year parts of Flathead High School were built. The half-floor sections of the school are outdated and deteriorating. They are also not in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards. The original gymnasium is also deteriorating.


The year Linderman was built. The education center serves 165 students with a regular waiting list of 80. The school, which is in its fourth year after the district merged Bridge Academy and Laser Alternative School, staffs 10 full-time teachers and four-part time teachers, as well as two teacher assistants. The district is proposing to renovate the entire building and create new learning space and a new library/information commons, and also bring the building up to safety codes and address deferred maintenance, such as roof repair.


The year of the last major upgrade and renovation of Legends Stadium, formerly Rawson Field, which houses athletic events for Flathead and Glacier high schools as well as youth organizations. The district is proposing to address aging bleachers and drainage issues on the field along with other renovations. The field would also be renovated, making it safer and more usable, according to district officials.


The year the Agriculture Center was built. It has not received a major update since its inception. The school district is proposing to add six classrooms and a science lab to the existing space; expand the shop areas to house welding programs and renovate the animal care facility; build two new commons areas to allow for learning sessions; and address deferred maintenance. The additions would allow the high schools to accommodate another 150 kids and 75 more students at the agriculture center, according to administrators.


The year Glacier High School opened. Nine years later, school officials are proposing to address maintenance needs, parking lot repairs and sidewalk repairs.

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