By Emily Stifler Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor

BIG SKY – The future of education is bright in Big Sky.

In a 400-215 tally, Big Sky School District voters on May 7 approved a $10.2 million bond that will go toward purchase of two lots adjacent to the current school and building a new k-4 facility.

The new building will have 12 classrooms, expandable to 16, a full gym, a satellite kitchen and library, space for administrative and counseling offices, and a new parking lot and playground. It will also function as a place to hold public meetings and community events, host recreational sports and adult education and family classes.

“It is such a great, great thing for this district,” said Supt. Jerry House. “Not only are we building that new elementary school, but it impacts middle school kids as we move the kids out of the elementary wing and make it a middle school wing. At the same time, that allows the high school to be a concentrated high school.”

A facilities planning committee of 23 community members took into consideration district and community needs such as these, as well as the school’s projected growth when determining the necessity of the new school.

The next step is for House to meet with the architect, Prugh and Lenon, and the contractor, Martel, and lay out the process and timeline for future design and construction schedules.

“My target is we open up the 2015/16 school year in the new building,” House said.
Site development and grading will start this summer, and adjustments to transition the current elementary classrooms to middle school classrooms will be made in summer 2015.

The district will add a link on its website, bssd72.org, showing ongoing progress, House said.

“I’m so pleased and thankful that the community is such strong supporters. Our staff is ecstatic. We’re going to do our best to make sure we get this building built below budget and also below the timeline.”

One of the building lots belongs to the Big Sky Institute, an affiliate of Montana State University that planned to build an educational facility on the site several years ago.

With the bond’s passage, the MSU Foundation has agreed to sell that lot to the district for $215,000. The money will go into an endowment housed by the foundation, from which a to be determined annual fee would be paid back to the district. That money will go into the general fund approved by the school board. House must still negotiate with the foundation to set a percentage rate for the fee.

Also in the May 7 election, voters approved a $50,000 general fund levy, 386-225. That money, levied annually, will go toward the school’s operational and maintenance costs.

Additionally, voters re-elected Big Sky School District Trustees Loren Bough and Laura Michel. The school board’s annual reorganization is set for Wednesday, May 17. During that meeting, the group will elect a board chair, vice chair and subcommittees, and appoint a district clerk.

The Gallatin County Elections Office issued 1,397 ballots in the district, and accepted 625, for a return rate of 44.74 percent.