Elysian School seeks $10 million bond from voters

Elementary school has doubled in size since 2008
2013-02-26T22:00:00Z 2014-01-17T14:32:08Z Elysian School seeks $10 million bond from votersBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Just this week, three new students enrolled at Elysian School, bringing the total number of students there to 209. 

In fact, since 2008, the small elementary school southwest of Billings has nearly doubled in size. 

"We're getting more and more kids every year," said Lucas Larson, Elysian's principal and superintendent. "The board decided it's time to do something."

To ease some of those growing pains, the district decided to seek a $10 million bond from its voters, who largely live between Interstate 90 and the Yellowstone River west of town, including the Josephine Crossing and Riverview housing developments. 

The bond would be used to add classrooms to the school, build a commons area to give students a place to eat lunch and beef up the school's sewer and water systems, which have been increasingly taxed as enrollment has grown. The school currently uses a septic tank and a well. 

"Our current building is in great shape," Larson said.

It's just too small.

For the past few years, the Elysian board has been working on remedies to the school's rapid growth.  

Three years ago, the community voted on a $250,000 building reserve levy, which has allowed Elysian to install two portable buildings, adding four classrooms to the school.

Both buildings, which house the school's fifth through eighth grades, are full.

The portables were never meant to be permanent, and while the school used them to relieve some of its growing pains, it continued to plan for an eventual expansion to the school building and the job of selling the public on the idea. 

"We have been working on this for years," Trustee Brian Wilson said.

The district has formed committees and commissioned studies. It crafted a facilities plan that includes a demographic study, enrollment projections, a functional capacity report and an educational suitability assessment. 

"We've been careful and deliberate," Wilson said. 

If voters approved the $10 million bond, it would cost property owners in the district approximately $106 a year for a home with a taxable market value of $112,000.

Wilson is cautiously optimistic about the bond passing. Ballots were mailed out Monday, and he said a good portion of the community is plugged into the school and aware of its challenges. 

Billings is surrounded by small, one-school districts experiencing similar growing pains. 

Voters in the Elder Grove School District, west of Billings, approved a $5 million bond in December. The district had tried the year before, but voters turned it down. 

The school now has roughly 430 students, an increase of 12.5 percent from the 2011-2012 school year. With the bond, the school will add classrooms, a library and computer lab, a parking lot and a host of related improvements.

Leaders at Elysian are hopeful they'll see similar success. 

"We're quickly running out of space," Larson said. 

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