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Townsend School District proposing $18.8M bond for new elementary school

Posted at 7:39 PM, Mar 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 21:39:38-04

TOWNSEND — This May, voters in the Townsend School District will consider an $18.8 million bond issue to construct a new elementary school.

District leaders say the existing elementary building has become outdated.

“This building was built in 1952, and teaching styles have changed dramatically – the way we teach kids, the educational environment,” said Jason Noyes, Townsend’s school board chair.

Last month, the school board voted unanimously to put the bond proposal before voters. The measure would pay for a new elementary building, adjacent to the current campus. It would also pay for renovations in some newer elementary classrooms and the middle school, and for safety and security upgrades.

Noyes said a new school would be a more usable space for teachers and students.

“It gives us a new opportunity to create more flexible spaces; it gives us alternatives, collaborative areas – just things that we don’t have,” he said.

Leaders say the current building has a variety of issues, from leaking roofs and water damage, to an inefficient heating system that is difficult to maintain, to a number of rooms that aren’t accessible for people with disabilities. They say the presence of materials like asbestos and lead paint would make it impractical to renovate the building.

“Moving toward a new building just seems like it is a lot more logical step,” said Noyes.

The new school would be built on the existing elementary school playground. District leaders’ goal is that the construction would not interfere with current students.

“The plan we put in place is to build the new elementary as far west on the property that we have,” Noyes said. “It took the shape of a two-story building partly because of the limited footprint that we have.”

The first payments on the elementary school bond would begin after August 2021, when the bond used for work on Broadwater High School expires. District leaders say, with payments on the high school bond ending and the new one beginning, there would be an overall tax increase of $95.98 a year on a $100,000 home and $191.96 on a $200,000 home.

Noyes said he’s hopeful that residents will support the bond – and the work the school district has done.

“We have young students that love to come to school, and we have graduating students that have excelled in our school district,” he said. “That’s a testament to the staff and our teachers, everybody involved, and our community I think sees that and understands the need for education and the need to invest in education.”

You can find more information about the bond proposal on a Facebook page.

The Townsend School District includes most of Broadwater County, except for the southern tip of the county, near Three Forks.

Broadwater County residents will also vote on another measure this spring that could increase property taxes. The county has proposed a five-year public safety levy that would raise money for the Broadwater County Sheriff’s Office and detention center, which will appear on the June 2 primary ballot.