A large crowd gathered in the cold wind around a mound of dirt at Irle School on Monday, March 24. Students, teachers and school board members shivered in the cold, along with Montana School Superintendent Denise Juneau for a special groundbreaking ceremony.
Several members from the architect company also attended as children cheered for the start of construction on their new school. Juneau told the children and others in the crowd that out of the 851 schools in the state, Irle Elementary was the only school being built for their community. She told the students that what they were seeing was special in Montana.
Soon after, board members, along with Juneau and Glasgow Superintendent Bob Connors dug their shovels into the dirt at the site where construction would soon begin. Students then dispersed and board members headed to the district office for a special meeting to oversee issues with high school construction.
Final approval for the Irle Elementary design was passed at the previous school board meeting. The $16.8 million bond was passed in March 2013, covering renovations in East Side, the high school and at Irle. Irle, currently a K-4 school, will soon house K-5; East Side, currently a 5-6 grade school, will soon house 6-8; and the high school, currently a 7-12 school, will become a traditional high school housing 9-12 grades.
Principal architect Stephen L'Heureux presented several drawings to school board members and others in attendance to show what plans were in place as of the previous week. A new entryway to the school, adding a vestibule to help with weather issues will extend an additional 7 feet out. Another addition to the gym entry will also be added to help with similar issues.
The big project causing changes to the art room is where much of the challenges for construction have been. The construction work is also slated to be completed this summer, before kids come to class in the fall, which is causing a little bit of a spacing crunch at the high school.
Storage seems to be the biggest issue in all the small projects at the high school. Additions to the locker rooms, along with an addition of a referee area, has taken storage spaces out of the equation. Playground equipment from Irle will be stored at the high school during construction. Areas near the lockerrooms that currently store a piano, stage equipment, chairs, podiums and other sports equipment will soon be gone.
The question from board member David Irving said it all: "Where is that all going to go?"
It was answered by a chuckle from High School Principal Shawnda Zahara-Harris. The issue, she explained, is the shifting of storage and space in the next year. While East Side construction is nearing completion, students will not be able to shift to that school until the Irle construction is completed. The art room has already lost their space as construction on the high school has already started.
Rooms and storage will shift in the following year, but the pressure won't be lifted off space in the high school for another year. This pressure for space caused some of the issues with the wrestling room in the previous school board meeting.
While the kitchen will help the school district provide meals to students at all schools, the construction and storage woes will continue. It was noted at the end of the meeting that the wrestling room would most likely be put back in order by the beginning of the next season.