ST. IGNATIUS — The third time was the charm for the St. Ignatius School District 28’s bond request to finance upgrades to portions of its existing facilities and the construction of new additions. On November 6, 2018, District 28 voters narrowly approved the $5.8 million bond request.
Time is the essence when it comes to construction costs. The previous bond request for $4.6 million in 2016 failed. To meet many of the same upgrades and construction needs in 2018, the tab went up to the eventually voter-approved $5.8 million. That amounts to a $500,000 annual increase for the needed improvements to the campus.
Had the voters turned down the third request, and in all probability, a bond request would have been asked for again. If a similar bond request was made this year, the request would tally $6.6 million, the result of inflation.
After conducting public informational tours of the facilities, and better articulating the reason for the new additions that would never go away, and would cost more with each passing year eventually took hold.
“We did a pretty good job getting the message across about what was needed at the school in terms of the facilities that fit the educational mission designed to meet the 21st century skills needed for success in the evolving workplace,” said Superintendent Jason Sargent, adding that he was very grateful for the district voters passing the bond.
The first noticeable manifestation of the project is the exterior walls are now enveloped in corresponding colored metal siding. The elementary school has also been reroofed.
Among the other construction/upgrade projects is a new multipurpose gymnasium that will seat 600 and has a weight room, locker rooms and public restrooms on the south side of the existing gym, aka the Dog House. A wide hallway separates the two gyms with access doorways to each.
On the north side of the Dog House is the new Career and Technology Center addition that houses the Family and Consumer Science, wood shop, auto shop and welding programs as well as the Pathways Career Technology Education classroom.
“Not everybody is going to college. In the last 15 or so years, there has been a change of students’ desire to go to college. It’s not as big — going to college — as it used to be,” Sargent said. “The Career and Technology Center education exposes students to career possibilities and expands their employment opportunities after graduation. The seniors produce a five-year career technical education plan to guide and enhance their future employment prospects. There are a ton of opportunities available in a two-year tech college, trade school or apprenticeship programs. This gives them a step ahead.”
Those opportunities include potential careers in early childhood development, teaching, nursing, advertising, business, technology, culinary arts, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, coding, personal finance, welding, and auto mechanics as well as related fields.
“Our focus is to get the students well prepared for post high school life and careers,” Sargent said, adding the college prep remains a huge important part of education mission at St. Ignatius schools. “That also includes participation in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs in middle school and high school.”
The STEM and Title I programs will be housed in a new building in a lot in the L-shaped corner of the campus roadway that once housed the School District 28 offices.
The former Family and Consumer Science room has been converted into the Art classes room. There are also new sidewalks, expanded pavement in parking lots, tennis court improvements, new student lockers, and new maintenance equipment and shop, remodeled bathrooms, improvements to the Dog House including a new ceiling and lighting, among other improvements
The upgrades and construction projects are paid for with the $5.8 million bond, a $550,000 Department of Commerce Delivering Local Assistance loan, and a $1.2 million Inter-Cap deferred maintenance loan with a 15-year payback. The school district gets deferred maintenance improvement funds annually from the state.
Sargent said the annual funding is appreciated but doesn’t go far to address overall needs in annual increments. But the $1.2 million loan will allow for the accomplishment of major improvements all at once. The annual state deferred maintenance fund allocation will be used to pay back the loan.
The bond and loan funds will each fund specific portions of improvement and construction projects.
Speaking of pay backs, education has always been paid by those who used the educational system paid by those who used it before them and so on.
The upgrade and construction projects are scheduled to be completed by the time school starts Wednesday, August 26. Just what the school year will be like is up in the air now. It’s all dependent upon the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and what, if any, restrictions the State of Montana might mandate to address the issue.
Sargent said in poll of parents on three options was nearly split equally with a third favoring continuance of remotely teaching, a third favoring resumption of regular in-school teaching, and a third favoring a combination of remote and in-school classes.
School District 28 has a four-option plan in place to address the various levels of the potential state of affairs affected by COVID-19.
More on that in the next issue of the Char-Koosta News.