The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Bonnie Davidson
The Courier 

Public Pre-K Problems

Glasgow School Board Listens To One Solution Suggestion


It was a very well thought out argument at the last Glasgow School Board Meeting on Thursday, April 16. Glasgow Head Start Coordinator Pam Ost spoke out to the trustees about thinking about saving a part of the old Irle School building, to be used as a place for Head Start and other pre-kindergarten programs that may one day become part of the district.

Her proposal was to form a committee to report back to the board at the next meeting with recommendations on the two story structure, that would include the kitchen. She spoke to the school board at the March meeting as well during the public comment section to be placed on the agenda in April. She was in fact on the agenda and was given time to present to the board on what her ideas for some solutions would be.

She showed pictures of the surrounding area of the Glasgow Head Start location. That area included some less desirable environments, with a neighbor on one side of the building collecting junk in the back yard and pushing down the fence separating his property from the Head Start playground area. Ost said that parents were trying to raise funds for a fence replacement that would add up to $10,000. The funds would unfortunately not move with them if they replaced the fence.

Her proposal was to discuss a more permanent possibility that could house more space for pre-k programs, and additional classrooms for growth if the district ends up including pre-kindergarten programs in the public school system, as proposed this year by Gov. Steve Bullock. Her argument was that 70 4-year-old students were already in pre-k programs in Glasgow, and that 42 states already include pre-k into the public school system.

“It is an eventuality and I think it’s necessary,” Ost said. “Maybe we can make an example for the rest of the state.”

The end of the old building that was set to be demolished that Ost had in mind would allow the kitchen to be saved, and open for community use. She had checked with the County Sanitarian Cam Shipp on the kitchen, he said that there weren’t structural deficiencies, and that the Head Start kitchen license would move over.

Ost said that they could possibly save funding on demolishing and disposal of the portion of the building, that would take up a part of the playground area in the current design. She said that the building would still leave room for playground space for the elementary students.

“I truly believe this is an opportunity, we want to take a moment to take a second look,” Ost said. Adding that once the building was completely torn down, there was no turning back.

After allowing Ost time to state her case, school board members chimed in on some of the issues with her ideas. Trustee John Daggett explained that they were currently under a tight schedule and wouldn’t have enough time for a committee before the next board meeting. Demolition was set to start by the third week in June and abatement on the old school was set to begin only two weeks from the school board meeting.

Daggett also added that the abatement scheduled would include pulling off the entire roof of the building, leaving the building exposed to the elements, without immediate funds to replace the roof in time to save it. Glasgow School District Clerk Kelly Doornek added that the asbestos wasn’t only in the roof, that tiles and piping might be removed as well during the abatement.

“In the older buildings its in the roofs, in the tile glue, it’s safe to occupy, but once you set up for abatement they have to get rid of it, it’s a liability,” Daggett said. “There’s no time to wait.”

Trustee Nick Dirkes added that leaving the building torn apart while waiting to raise funding to refurbish the portion of the building would be a liability to the school district. He added that if the funding was already there to start on the project immediately it could be different, but there was a risk with the proposal on the table.

Board Member Mona Amundson added that she had gotten calls from community members that voiced their concern on their vote on the bond that passed. That part of selling the bond to the voters was that the old building wasn’t as safe to occupy kids.

Dirkes also added on their argument that the architect firm looked at the costs of saving the old building and refurbishing it, versus tearing it down and building a new one. It turned out that renovation costs would overcome a new school.

“Even if we took another look, costs and liability is an issue,” Daggett said. “You’re looking at substantial funds that would be needed and a tight time frame to make it occupy-able.”

He added that the structure would also encroach on teacher parking and it would take half of the playground designed for the kids, making it smaller than it already was with the old school.

Ost rebutted that there just isn’t many buildings in Glasgow of that size and that would match the needs for public pre-kinder programs. She said that finding those types of accommodations, and close to existing public schools was very limited.

Dirkes suggested the old Fort Peck School that was sitting empty, but Daggett added that building was also full of asbestos. Superintendent suggested the old Catholic school, but Amundson added that it was an area they researched for community college and the building had no accessibility for disabled.

“I do think you’re right on pre-k,” Daggett said to Ost at the meeting. “At some point the district will have to address the issue.”

Trustee Suzanne Billingsley added that she had also received two calls with concerns about the condition of the old building and the costs to repurpose the portion of building Ost proposed to save. She added that she appreciated the suggestion and looking at the options, but thought this might not be the solution.

The board passed unanimously on a resolution to dispose of the obsolete building after the argument. They also passed a resolution to dispose of more obsolete equipment as the purging of old items continue in preparation of the old building coming down and moving items into the new building.

During the superintendent’s report, Connors added that a bill from legislature had passed to increase the bonding capacity of school districts. He joked that the district bonds was right at the threshold for the new school, and now the district would be able to bond out more.

The next school board meeting was scheduled for May 14.


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