The middle school site with the most points wins

2013-12-09T19:57:00Z 2013-12-13T07:46:04Z The middle school site with the most points winsBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

The planning and development committee for School District 2 is putting together criteria the SD2 board will use to decide which of its new, bond-approved middle school will be built first. 

Sites for the new middle schools were secured when voters approved a $122 million bond in November. One will be built at Bench and Barrett roads next to Bitterroot Elementary School in the Heights. The other will go up at 56th Street West and Grand Avenue.

The issue now facing the board is which of the two to build first.

To help in the decision, trustees will look at factors like what the existing utilities are at each site, which area has greater crowding in the classrooms and what the immediate road and traffic impact will be. 

Along with that, the board will also look at which sites are pedestrian-friendly. 

The Heights location could be impacted by the traffic and road conditions because of ongoing work on the Bench Boulevard Connector. 

The West End location likely will be impacted by the lack of sidewalks and shoulders along Grand Avenue. The road has no sidewalk is only 24 feet wide through the area where the school will be built. 

Building the two schools concurrently isn't an option.

Bond money will be used to update multiple elementary schools and completely renovate McKinley and Broadwater schools, tying up local contractors and school resources. 

As such, trustees decided the district reasonably could build only one middle school at a time. The criteria they've crafted will help guide the decision.

Part of the process also will be a pair of community meetings Tuesday and Wednesday night, first at Will James Middle School and then in the Heights, at Castle Rock Middle School. 

Both meetings will start at 6 p.m. and the community members will be invited to to speak out on what they want. 

Trustee Lindy Graves at Monday's planning and development meeting asked how community input will be integrated with the other factors the board will use.

District staff will create a method to summarize community feedback and add it to the construction selection criteria, said Superintendent Terry Bouck.

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