Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Kila School to put $8 million bond issue on the ballot for expansion

Daily Inter Lake | March 5, 2024 12:00 AM

Kila School is moving forward with an $8 million bond issue in a May mail ballot election to expand its facilities.

The 20-year bond would generate funds for an addition off of the middle school wing at the rural K-8 school. 

The proposed expansion would encompass building a secure main entrance in a new location on the lower level. The lower level of the addition would house administrative and counseling offices, a lobby and multipurpose conference space. Four classrooms, a multipurpose space for academic uses and a new set of bathrooms would be located on the second floor. An elevator would also be installed for accessibility.

Kila School has a current enrollment of 170 students and employs 30 staff members. There is enough space currently for one classroom per grade level, according to Principal Shannon Marshall, who joined the Kila staff this year. 

“Some class sizes are maxing out,” she said. “One of our major concerns is second grade, which is over by four students.”

To adapt, the school has a combination first- and second-grade classroom.

The proposed design will be built with future needs in mind. Two classrooms proposed to be located overlooking Smith Lake could be combined to function as a larger library.

Septic system capacity will also be increased to handle the additional bathrooms and future enrollment growth. The septic system will be relocated to land currently used for track and field activities to free up space next to existing classrooms for future expansions.

Aside from more classrooms, the bathrooms are a much-needed addition. About 55 fourth- through eighth-grade boys share one bathroom stall and one urinal. Around 40 fourth- through eighth-grade girls share two bathroom stalls.

Under the proposed plan, the parking lot would also undergo an expansion with a new drop-off loop created and additional spaces in front of the addition for handicapped and short-term parking.

Marshall said changes to the parking lot will ease traffic backup on Kila Road from vehicles waiting to drop off or pick up students.

“The community has complained they can’t get around the cars, so this would almost double the length for the car line so people don’t have to be waiting on Kila Road,” Marshall said.

Funds would also go toward electrical, mechanical, structural, safety and security upgrades or repairs to the existing school facility.

If approved, owners of a home with an assessed value of $300,000 can expect annual taxes to increase by $434.97. For a home with an assessed value of $500,000 that would be a $724.95 increase.

Discussions related to running a bond around this amount have been held for some time. In 2023 the district put out a request for qualifications to hire a firm to provide planning services. The district has been working with planners from McKinstry, a Missoula-based firm, on the project with Cushing Terrell providing architectural and engineering services. 

The board had discussed a smaller bond amount — limited to adding classrooms — but deemed the larger amount more cost-effective in the long run to address space and infrastructure issues.

Marshall said the district also looked at installing modular classrooms, which were found to be expensive, and the board deemed not worth the investment.

The school’s last attempt to pass a $2.1 million bond in 2009 failed.

Marshall is hoping for a better outcome. 

“If the bond passes the next step is finalizing all the building plans and start construction of the septic system, which has to be moved in order to be enlarged,” Marshall said.

If the bond doesn’t pass, “That’s a challenge because we have such limited space. We would continue to work with what we have and hope the bathrooms maintain the over usage and go for a bond again,” she said.

About 1,177, ballots will be mailed out April 8 to active, registered voters. Ballots are due at the school, 395 Kila Road, by 8 p.m. May 7.

For more information visit www.kilaschool.com.

Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

    In this Jan. 18, 2023, file photo, sets of cross-country skis students use are stored inside Mary Ehli's sixth-grade classroom at Kila School. The school is looking to expand by asking voters to approve an $8 million bond issue in May. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)