Deer Park School Voters Reject Second Bond in Nine Months

After failed $1.85 million proposal, district officials evaluate options for oldest continually running school in county

By Myers Reece
Deer Park School. Beacon File Photo

For the second time in nine months, voters shot down a bond proposal to renovate Deer Park School, the oldest continually running school in Flathead County.

Mail ballots for the $1.85 million bond were due May 22, and the final tally came in at 203 votes against and 165 in favor. The bond would have raised taxes $180 annually on a $200,000 home.

The scaled-down bond proposal came on the heels of a $3 million bond that voters rejected in September by a wider margin, 207 to 106.

Principal Dan Block said Wednesday he was optimistic that the recent version would pass, and said the students “are taking it pretty hard.”

“I really thought we had a good chance,” Block said. “There seemed to be a lot more positive energy going it.”

Noting that “38 votes is pretty close,” Block said the district will likely try again in the future, but not for a while. In the meantime, district officials will see what end-of-the-year funds are available to address the most urgent concerns, including upgrading bathrooms, potentially shoring up the Quonset hut and making repairs on the teacherage used for administrative offices.

Deer Park School, located in an agricultural area off Montana Highway 206 eight miles south of Columbia Falls, has been in operation since 1886. Its district number is “2,” meaning it was the second school established in the county. The long-defunct Demersville school district was the first.

Growing enrollment has strained the school’s increasingly outdated and aging infrastructure. A schoolhouse with a bell tower has been in use since 1921, while later additions include a Quonset hut built in the 1960s as a gym that now is a multi-purpose class space and a newer classroom building constructed in 1984.

The last time the school passed a bond was in 1999 to fund the construction of a new gymnasium.

“It’s disappointing, of course,” Block said. “Now we regroup.”

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