SD2 board approves report detailing facilities plan

2013-02-04T21:45:00Z 2013-02-05T10:05:04Z SD2 board approves report detailing facilities planBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Trustees voted to approve the master facilities plan draft report at Monday night's School District 2 board meeting, but questions about how best to move forward with the information were left on the table.

A workshop for trustees and the public to decide what options the district now has according to the information detailed in the report will be set for later this month.

"We've come a long way," Superintendent Terry Bouck said.

The report, which was voted on in two parts representing the elementary and high school portions of the district, has been seven months in the making and details the maintenance work and capacity needs for each school building.

It also shows where the district is expected to grow over the next decade — much of it in the Heights — and what steps the district can take to alleviate that growth. 

Questions of how capacity was calculated and what the district should do about its growth dominated much of the board discussion. 

Trustee Connie Wardell said she wouldn't vote to approve the draft report because many of the options it lays out for addressing growth are "fiscally unsustainable."

"This isn't a plan, it's a dream," she said.

Chairwoman Teresa Stroebe answered Wardell, speaking of the overcrowding issues currently faced by the district. More than 90 SD2 classrooms — most of them kindergarten through second grade — have a student-teacher ratio considerably higher than what the state allows.

She reminded Wardell that last summer she had to appear with Bouck and previous superintendent Jack Copps before the state board of public education, where they were reprimanded and required to show the steps they would take to alleviate crowded classrooms.

"This is part of our remedy," Stroebe said. 

Ultimately, Wardell and Trustee Kathy Aragon voted against accepting the draft report.

Two weeks ago the board voted on construction and maintenance options that would upgrade most of the district's existing elementary schools and build two new middle schools and an elementary school.

The price tag for all that work was $158 million, money that the district would have to seek through voter-approved bonds.  

Bouck stressed at the meeting that the report gives trustees data with which they can move forward and that they weren't locked into any kind of action. 

Before the board decides on anything, Bouck and his staff will hold another series of meetings with the community and perform a professional survey of the community to find out just what Billings residents want and, most important, what they'll pay for, he said. 

"You've gotta listen," he said. 

The master facilities plan was commissioned by SD2 last summer, and it has been developed by Billings-based O2 Architects and national design firm DLR Group at a cost of $250,000.

Kim Olsen with O2 Architects was at Monday's meeting, and she took trustees through the various parts of the draft report. She told trustees they haven't yet committed to any action. 

The report details the district's needs, she said, and it's up to the board to decide how best to meet those needs. 

"This document is a tool for you to use in the planning process," she said. 

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