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$12M bond would fund upgrades to Jefferson High School in Boulder
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$12M bond would fund upgrades to Jefferson High School in Boulder

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Jefferson County voters will decide whether to approve a 20-year, $12.5 million bond to overhaul the high school in Boulder. 

If approved, the bond would fund the first major overhaul of Jefferson High School since 1985, according to district Superintendent Tim Norbeck. The bond is the only item on the mail-in ballots that go out Oct. 13 and must be returned by 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 2.

"Our last bond issue here was in 1985," Norbeck said. "Since then our enrollment has increased. We've gained over 100 students in the past five years."

The bond would tackle a number of issues including the removal of modular classrooms, a significant building addition, Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and new plumbing. Norbeck said officials have been working on this proposal for the past 2 1/2 years, and according to their polls, which received a 30% response rate, 61.3% of voters supported making the upgrades to the school.

Norbeck said a facility assessment survey determined there were two paths the district could take. One would be a minimal upgrade, which according to Norbeck just wouldn't have helped that much. The other was to go for a generational upgrade to the building. Norbeck said because the district almost never asks for tax increases for facility upgrades, he was comfortable in going forward with this request while "trying to make it as palatable as possible."

According to the district's impact assessment, over the next 20 years, the annual tax increase on a $100,000 home would be $53.55 per year. For a $200,000 house, the annual increase would be $107.10, and on a $300,000 home the increase would be $160.65.

One of the most visible upgrades would be the removal of modular classrooms. Norbeck said the school has a two-piece trailer from the mid-1990s that acts as several classrooms disconnected from the broader school. He said that if those students need to use the restroom, they have to come into the main building.

"With today's security and safety needs it's just not ideal," Norbeck said.

Another clearly visible upgrade will be the new addition to the building, designed by SMA Architects of Helena. This new addition would feature five classrooms, a music/band room, special education area, art room, two science labs and more.

In addition to this, many of the fixtures in the building would be upgraded. Plumbing throughout the building is listed as one of the primary targets for a remodel, in addition to the facility's boilers, which Norbeck said are 15 to 20 years old at this point. There will also be security upgrades such as a vestibule entrance where guests entering the school can be approved before entering.

One thing Norbeck said the plan attempts to do is repurpose old spaces in an effort to keep costs down.

"Part of trying to be efficient with taxpayer money is reuse of old space," Norbeck said. "For instance, we want to repurpose the old music room into a room for the drama club. Currently they're using an old stage in our gymnasium, and if they're in there, we can't have gym class."

There are also several old draft rooms and other rooms in the technical skills part of the facility, which will be repurposed into a weight room for student athletes, while the welding, drafting and other technical courses will receive a space in the school's addition. Norbeck said these courses are increasingly popular and he fears that the current 12-student cap might not be enough in the future.

ADA accessibility is another significant issue the bond would tackle. The last upgrades to the facility were before the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and thus much of it is not currently compliant. 

The plan is to have the upgrades completed in around two years. However, this is highly contingent on supply chains and availability of materials. According to Norbeck, the upgrades are necessary to match the potential for growth the Boulder community is currently experiencing.

"The potential for growth in this community is huge, with Montana Highway Patrol moving here, who have been great neighbors by the way," Norbeck said. "There is also a new subdivision moving in, which means more potential students in our school district."

Completed ballots can be mailed to Jefferson High School at P.O. Box 838, Boulder, Montana 59632, or they can be hand delivered to JHS at 312 South Main in Boulder from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.


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