Kalispell Schools Approaching Capacity – District to Begin Long-Range Facilities Planning

Kalispell Public Schools will begin extensive long-term facilities planning as more schools in the district approach capacity levels.

The district issued a request for qualifications Monday to hire consultants to help with the planning process. The goal is to develop a “master plan” that officials can refer to for the next 20 years, Superintendent Micah Hill said.

The work will include, among other things, a review of the facilities, a demographic study, recommendations and an implementation plan.

In addition to evaluating the facilities in terms of capacity and condition, Hill said the district wants to consider long-term growth from a city and county perspective, nodding to all 13 school districts. surrounding partners whose students eventually attend Flathead and Glacier High Schools. “What does this long-term growth look like? And then a demographic study – where are these things happening? What are the growth rates of individual grade levels or age groups? ” he said.

The district’s hope is to complete the long-term facility planning process by June 2023.

The district went through a facilities planning process to address overcrowding and aging infrastructure, which resulted in voter-approved bonds totaling $54 million in 2016. The bonds funded construction of the school Rankin Elementary, as well as renovation and expansion projects for its five other elementary and secondary school buildings. . School district boundaries were later adjusted in 2019.

Since then, the largest school district in Flathead County and the town of Kalispell have continued to grow.

Deputy Superintendents Matt Jensen and Peter Fusaro recently provided an update on enrollment during a presentation on capacity building and how space in schools is being utilized as education demands change. with time. Montana schools will conduct official enrollment counts in October and February, which will determine state funding amounts.

Capacity building depends on physical size, class size limits, schedules and educational programs, depending on the district. One of the challenges facing schools with capacity issues is not meeting state accreditation standards for class size, and elementary students, in particular, may not be able to to attend the school in their neighborhood, as indicated by the district boundaries. Jensen reported that 41 elementary students are currently attending schools outside of their neighborhood.

As of August 18, Rankin was at 97% construction capacity; Edgerton and Hedges Elementary Schools were both at 95%; Peterson Elementary, 77%; Elrod Elementary, 71%; and Russell Elementary, 69%.

Another issue that middle and high schools face is that students may not be able to take the courses of their choice due to time and space limitations as well as safety recommendations in subjects such as art, music, science (laboratories), technology and shop. Fusaro described the current high school enrollment numbers as “historic,” with Flathead at full capacity with an enrollment of 1,543 students and Glacier above capacity at 1,415 students.

Kalispell Middle School is also at full capacity, with 1,075 students enrolled, according to the district.

According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Kalispell’s population as of July 2021 was 26,110. The 2020 census estimated the municipality’s population at 24,558.

About 26% of the population is made up of children under the age of 18.

Tenders are due by 2 p.m. October 3 and must be submitted to Denise Williams, Director of Business Services, Kalispell Public Schools, 233 First Ave. E., Kalispell, MT 59901.

Reporter Hilary Matheson can be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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