SD2 committee narrows list of potential school sites

2013-07-01T17:15:00Z 2014-06-06T13:32:25Z SD2 committee narrows list of potential school sitesBy ROB ROGERS The Billings Gazette

A committee for School District 2 homed in on two locations on the east side of the Heights and two on the West End of Billings as potential sites for two new middle schools SD2 hopes to build.

The group — composed of SD2 officials, representatives from city and county planning, city transportation, RiverStone Health and other public bodies — met for about four hours Monday morning to discuss the dozen sites identified as possible spots for the new schools.

Through the discussion, the group discussed the merits of the locations, the needs of the school district and the potential problems the district might face as it works to develop some of the sites.

At the end of the meeting, the committee had whittled the list of sites down to five. Then, using electronic clickers, they rated the individual merits of each of the remaining sites to create a ranking.

That left two sites in the Heights and two sites on the West End.  

Of the sites in the Heights, one is adjacent to Bitterroot Elementary School near Bench Boulevard and Barrett Road. The second is property owned by Sartorie Farms, which sits one lot over on Barrett Road. Each location is over 15 acres. 

On the West End, the committee seemed to settle on property owned by School District 2 at 56th Street West and Grand Avenue. The Cottonwood property, a little closer to the city, was deemed by the committee too small for a middle school.

They also gave high marks to the property where SD2 has its Career Center on Central Avenue. 

"People were very thoughtful, very reflective," said Superintendent Terry Bouck of the committee's work.

Much of the discussion focused on establishing where students live now and where they'll be living in 10 years. On the phone with the committee was a representative from Cropper GIS, a demographic firm hired by the school district. 

The district has seen significant growth in enrollment over the last three years. Even if SD2 stopped growing today, it would still be woefully overcrowded, Bouck told the committee.

By 2016, enrollment at SD2's four current middle schools will be at 980 students each, according to figures in the demographer's report. By 2020, it'll be over 1,000 students per middle school.

The pressure to pick the right sites and get two new schools built is mounting, Bouck said. 

"As we look at the these properties we want to make sure we pick the right properties for the board to look at," Bouck said.

The committee will officially finish up its work in the next couple of weeks. They'll go out and visit the four sites next week and get a feel for them. After that, they'll make their recommendations to the board. 

Trustees will take up the issue at their July 15 meeting. 

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