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School board addresses growing student enrollment

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By Joseph T. O’Connor ExploreBigSky.com Editor

BIG SKY – Talks at the Big Sky School Board’s meeting on Feb. 12 covered a lot of ground, including the creation of a new administrative position at the school and a proposed bond to accommodate the growing student population.

Meeting reports and board comments continually pointed back to this increase in the student body.

In this vein, the board approved a proposal to bring on an assistant principal to help spread the workload and to eventually succeed Big Sky School District Superintendent Jerry House.

House researched similar-sized schools and found most have two school administrators for every 200 students. At Ophir, there’s one for 252.

Also at the meeting, House had his contract extended for two years, a proposal that passed unanimously.

“He makes us look good, and makes processes easier,” said School Board Chairman Loren Bough who, along with Vice-chair Laura Michels, is up for re-election on May 7. “We are fortunate to have Jerry for two more years.”

Since 2000, the district’s enrollment has expanded from about 100 students to 252 this year. “We’re the fastest growing school district in the state,” Bough said, pointing to crowded classrooms and a poor student-to-teacher ratio.

“We have a math teacher [instructing] in the film/TV production lab,” said House, echoing Boughs comments.

One current plan includes moving computers out of a 1,000-square-foot room to make it a classroom, and the computer lab into a 400-square-foot space. But this is merely a shotgun reaction to one example of a larger issue, and the board is looking for a longer-term solution.

A Facilities Planning Committee, who is researching the plausibility of a new building for younger students, met on Feb. 21, after Weekly press time, to discuss options. Bough expects the committee to make a recommendation to the school board in March.

“People don’t understand that we don’t have just 100 kids anymore,” House said.

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