This Much Seems For Sure: It's The End Of The Line For Irle
By Samar Fay
Published: Tuesday, November 20th, 2012
There are many looming issues about the future of Glasgow’s school buildings, but one decision seems clear – Irle School has run its course.
At a community meeting Tuesday night, Superintendent Bob Connors outlined the Building Committee’s plans so far and the bond they will be proposing to school district voters early next year.
Irle School, built in 1958, cannot be properly repaired. It was built on a concrete slab with the piping imbedded and there is no space behind the tongue-in-groove ceiling. The crumbling pipes can’t be accessed to replace or clean them; there is literally not enough wiring to supply needed electricity to the rooms; and land is washing away from the foundation.
There is land available on the current site for a new building that could house up to six grade levels, so it could be a K-5 school.
East Side, built in 1961, needs some improvements, such as more bathrooms, a better cafeteria and perhaps more classrooms. Then it could take in the seventh and eighth grades, which educators want to move out of the high school building. East Side already has a shop and home economics areas needed for a middle school curriculum.
The high school, which dates from 1968, has a few areas for renovation, such as updating the locker rooms because of tournaments, and the seating in the auditorium, making the kitchen into the central district kitchen and improving some outdoor facilities.
The district owns the land south of the high school as far as Angus Drive and east with the practice fields.
”We have land in case we get blitzed like Sidney,” Connors said.
The Building Committee has rough estimates for the proposed work, but hasn’t made firm recommendations yet. They haven’t decided if East Side should house grades 5 through 8 or 6 through 8.
The Glasgow School District currently has no debt. The district has a combined K-8 and 9-12 bonding capacity of $18 million, which they need to use judiciously to fill the foreseeable needs in all the schools for 20 years, the life of the proposed bond. The committee is looking even farther, trying to forecast out 30 to 40 years, because school buildings are utilized for many years beyond their original intent.
“We have to be good stewards of our money. We won’t be able to do anything more for 20 years,” Connors said. “We can’t keep coming back to the people for bonds every 10 years.”
The bond would mean $152 per year in added taxes for residents in the Glasgow School District. TransCanada’s Keystone XL oil pipeline, which is awaiting presidential approval, is expected to contribute enough tax money to school budgets to reduce the school bond costs by as much as 20 percent, Connors said.
The Montana secretary of state must approve a school board resolution to run a bond. Sample ballots will be mailed to voters in mid-January, Connors said, to give people time to attend public meetings and ask questions. The actual ballots will be mailed in mid-February, and the tentative return date is March 14.
Connors said the design team would need about six months after the bond election to finish the plans, and a new elementary school could open its doors in 2015. That would allow two building seasons to get it done correctly.
The educators and board members at the meeting Tuesday were positive about the need for the bond and the district’s support for its schools.
“It’s a worldwide education system now, not just Montana competition,” Connors said. “Our kids have to be ready to compete with the West Coast and the Pacific Rim.”
In the memory of the people at the meeting, a school bond has never failed here.
The next Glasgow School Board meeting will be held at Irle School on Wednesday, Dec. 12. The public is welcome to join a tour of the school at 5 p.m. for a first-hand look at the building’s problems and attend the meeting at 6:30 p.m.
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