Voters in the Deer Park School District rejected a $3 million bond request.
The mail-in ballot election for district residents ended Sept. 19, and 207 votes were opposed to the proposed general obligation bond and 126 were in favor, according to school officials.
The oldest active elementary school in the county, Deer Park is plagued with deferred maintenance and overcrowding has become an issue in kindergarten through eighth grade. School officials were seeking a new 20-year bond — the first since 1999 — to pay for facility upgrades, including tearing down the current Quonset hut and connecting two existing facilities, as well as addressing foundation and security issues.
Dan Block, Deer Park’s principal and seventh- and eighth-grade math teacher, said there is no “Plan B” but the elementary school south of Columbia Falls will do its best to address the issues under the current budget constraints.
Block published a statement on the school’s website after the election ended:
“I would like to thank all the community (around 50 percent of registered voters) for casting a ballot, giving us input, and sharing some good ideas with the building committee. No matter how you voted, I think everyone agrees the Quonset Hut needs to be replaced and we have infrastructure, security, classroom space, and storage issues that have to be addressed. We don’t currently have a plan B, but we have a wonderful dedicated building committee (and talented maintenance worker Jake Horn) that will start working on a prioritized list and shorter terms goals to meet these needs.”
He continued, “The search for extra funding will resume. My incredible staff will continue to offer quality programs in a positive climate and we will persevere and move forward in the ‘Deer Park Way’ – with creative solutions. I will also continue to lead with a primary goal of making Deer Park a school where everyone wants to send their children.”
In the relatively small district, to cover the 20-year bond, property taxes would have increased roughly $315 annually on a home with a taxable value of $200,000.
The list of issues remains long at the school site, which dates back to the 1880s. The Quonset hut is more than 50 years old and is falling apart, quite literally. In the winter, the roof sags in many areas and leaks in others. Since the buildings are separated, it requires 11 furnaces, many that are several years old, to heat the school in winter. One class last year was situated inside the former copy room. The small office bathroom is also home to boxes of paperwork and other supplies climbing to the ceiling. Security and safety issues also abound, according to Block, who has been at Deer Park for 23 years.
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