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School safety, tech levies deserve support

by Daily Inter Lake
| September 24, 2023 12:00 AM

Many of Kalispell Public Schools’ high school students weren’t even born the last time the high school district approved a levy of any type.

It’s time for that grim 16-year streak to end. This time, there’s personnel cuts and student safety on the line.

The district is asking voters to approve two levies for the high school district and two for the elementary district. The elementary safety and technology levies are both for approximately $1.5 million. The high school district is asking for a $1.6 million safety levy and the technology levy request is for $1 million.

The levies would be on the books for 10 years if passed.

While Superintendent Randy Cline reassures Kalispell’s schools are safe, “there are definitely things that we can do to make it safer.”

Notably, the levy funding would be spent on critical student safety positions like school resource officers, a health, wellness and suicide prevention specialist position, and counselors.

Cline starkly warns that resource officer and counselor positions are often the first on the chopping block when funding is tight in order to keep teachers in classrooms.

That can’t happen. The Flathead Valley is all too familiar with the tragedy of teen suicides, and if funding resource officers and counselors saves just one young person’s life, it’s money well spent.

The district has long considered school building security as a top priority and an area in need of continued improvement, particularly as school shootings occur around the nation and safety recommendations and best practices constantly change.

Approval of the safety levies would allow the district to address building deficiencies and other vulnerabilities identified in a recent safety audit, such as purchasing a communication app that would create a coordinated emergency/crisis response.

Cybersecurity is another constant threat, and one that has affected the district on a few occasions. Residents might recall 2017 when hackers gained access to data and sent a ransom letter that caused all county schools to cancel classes for three days. Then in 2021, a post to the social media site TikTok prompted a lockdown at Glacier High School.

On the technology side, there’s a perpetual need for school’s to adapt with the times or risk being left in the dust. Kalispell students deserve access to relevant computer equipment and software so they’re ready for what’s required in college or career.

“We know that technology is going to get more and more expensive and there’s going to be a greater and greater need,” Cline said.

Let’s ensure Kalispell Public Schools’ students are set up for future success, and are able to learn in a safe and secure environment. Vote yes on all four levies in the Oct. 3 election.