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Rimrock school

Rimrock School sits empty on Wednesday, October 11.

Rimrock Elementary School, the building that's been shuttered since 2009, will still reopen next year, as School District 2 Superintendent Terry Bouck announced Friday. But it won't be as a regular elementary school.

Instead, the building will host the district's special education program for 3- to 5-year-olds, which is currently located at the Career Center.

"The program's growing," Bouck said. "And it needed a home."

The move will open space at the Career Center and reduce busing times for many students, Bouck said. The plan for Rimrock was not released at the Friday announcement.

Rimrock should be ready for the 2018-19 school year, officials said.

The early special education program has two 2.5-hour rotations, one in the morning and one in the afternoon in five classrooms. Ten students are in each classroom, combining for about 100 for a full day.

An additional 10 students are included in inclusive classes with a separate preschool program that also serves as a laboratory-type setting for high school students at the Career Center. That program will remain at the Career Center.

"This is not about a preschool program," said SD2 director of special education services Judy Povalitis. "It's about meeting deficiencies and catching them up with skill deficits."

Students in the classes have developmental disorders like autism, cognitive delays, vision problems and behavioral needs.

Rimrock will have six or seven classrooms, Bouck said.

The remaining $6 million will be used for several projects at the long-shuttered school:

  • Replacing the roof.
  • Addressing accessibility.
  • Flooring.
  • The HVAC system.
  • The fire alarm system.
  • Windows and skylights.
  • Repainting.
  • Data and communication needs.

The list also includes several projects at other schools. Officials said Rimrock renovations would be a high priority on the list.

The Rimrock building will not have a principal. Bouck was lukewarm about the possibility of the school going back to its multi-grade roots.

"The economy of scale is not the best for a school," he said, citing a capacity of 210 students.

The early special education program was previously housed in elementary schools around the district, but as a crowding crunch got worse, the program was moved to the Career Center in 2012.

Federal law requires school districts to identify 3- to 5-year-olds with special needs and provide appropriate services.

High school levy

Bouck also recommended that trustees offer a high school levy next spring.

An elementary levy passed last spring, but a high school levy failed. SD2 hasn't passed a high school levy in more than a decade.

The district's pitch would likely be similar to last year's including new textbooks, more Advanced Placement classes, and reducing class sizes, "specifically at the core classes," Bouck said. "We bump up against 30 way too much."

Trustees typically move for levy elections several months before May elections.

Trustee Bruce MacIntyre was wary of the impact of a recent legislative special session and the timing of property tax bills.

"Wait just a little while," he said.

"I'm all for it, but I want you guys to make that decision," said Bouck, who is retiring at the end of the school year. "I'm willing to give it my last heave ho."

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Billings Gazette.