Bozeman Montana Real Estate Information Archive
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Make some room Bozeman High School—it looks like you will have some company soon in Bozeman, Montana. The phrase now feels much more real, thanks to a 6-1 vote by the Bozeman School Board to build an entirely new, 9 -12 high school in Bozeman Montana. Bozeman has been one of the fastest growing small towns in Western United States.
Bozeman High School currently has 2,000 students but has been expanding year over year. By 2020, the date a new high school should be opened, that enrollment will reach 2,400, hence the split.
The Bozeman School Board, as well as its high school expansion advisory committee, worked hard in the past six months to determine the best method of expanding its educational services to a growing city.
The Bozeman School District had grappled with several ideas, including a Freshman only school, expanding the current high school, or even changing which age children would attend what school. However, after much deliberation, the board went ahead with the most expensive, but also most forward thinking proposal (in terms of potential future costs): an entirely new high school, a distinct entity from Bozeman High School with its own teachers, athletics, mascot etc.
The high school will be built on Bozeman’s west side of town, on Oak and Flander’s Mill Road. It will be just North of Meadowlark Elementary school.
The recommendations for the new Bozeman high school were researched and made by the 31-member advisory committee which consisted of parents, teachers and community members. The committee had to tackle concerns that expansion might bring. The variety and number of classes offered may be thinned due to the costs of new faculty, administration and operating costs.
Bozeman High School’s reputation has been nothing short of stellar of late. Its students always perform extremely high on standardized tests, they take a wide variety of AP classes, the school has received education based grants, and the overall happiness of Bozeman high schoolers is very high in comparison to other places in Montana and in the US. Many are concerned a second school could potentially dilute the excellence and momentum Bozeman High School has built.
Despite concerns of the price and drawbacks of a second high school, the advisory committee reported that letters for and against a new high school were nearly 2-1, giving them the confidence that they have made the best decision for the community. Voters will still need to pass the bond that funds the school. That very important vote will take place in May, 2017.
The Bozeman School District has delayed a vote to narrow Bozeman High’s expansion plan in light of a new hybrid plan raised in late March. Officials had been wrestling between two high school expansion plans, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. The third plan, if accepted, would try to lower the drawbacks seen in previous plans.
Bozeman had been debating two expansion plans. In the first idea, Bozeman would build a new, fully separated high school. The new school would operate as a separate entity from BHS. This expansion plan would follow the model set by towns in Montana who already have two to three high schools (i.e. Missoula, Helena, Billings etc.). A new highschool would cost the most money to build but would lead to less renovations and expansions in the future. Funding the two high schools would become the biggest drawback going forward, as both schools would then be expected to field separate athletic teams, music groups and clubs. Operating costs for new administration, librarians, custodians etc. would cost $1.5 million alone. Many residents worry that optional classes like Advanced Placement Coursework, art and foreign languages would be narrowed if funding became an issue.
In the second idea, the school district would build a new building for Freshman only. The building would house up to 800 students and would be designed to be expanded later down the line. This plan would keep all students under the Bozeman High School umbrella. Although more classes could be offered in comparison to idea one, idea two will make athletics and music highly competitive and therefore would be offered based on merit, instead of being an open activity.
In late March, officials came up with a third idea to try and negotiate between the drawbacks of the first two plans. In this hybrid idea, Bozeman would move forward building a new high school. However, the district would shuffle which grades attended which schools, to help make numbers even between Elementary, Middle and High School. Currently, Bozeman High is a 4 year school, housing 2,000 students. The new school, capable of holding 2,200 students, would only take 10th, 11th and 12th graders, leaving plenty of room to grow into the building.
Eighth and ninth graders would then attend Junior High School in the current building. Chief Joseph and Sacajawea would take 5th through 7th graders (currently taking 6th through 8th) while elementary schools would take Kindergarten through 4th graders (currently Kindergarten through 5th grade.) By redistributing the students, both high schools would be left with plenty of room to expand.
In light of the new idea, as well as the impending bond vote on the new Law and Justice Center in Bozeman in November, officials will not put the bond before voters until May 2017. Which plan they put in front of voters will in be determined in May.
One option remaining calls for building a separate campus for Freshmen, still under the Bozeman High School umbrella. That campus would accommodate 800 students.
The second option calls for building a second high school right away. This school would be a separate entity from Bozeman High School.
The third option, now no longer being pursued, called to expand the current high school again—this time to 3,000 students.
High school enrollment in Bozeman is projected to reach 2,400 students by 2020. The pros and cons of building a freshmen campus over a full high school focus on money available compared to expected growth in Bozeman. Creating a separated Freshmen campus would be cheaper on the front end, but could potentially limit future expansions. Creating a full high school would cost more but allow for more flexibility in the future. Creating a separate high school would also require initial growing pains as districts would need to be redrawn, class availability could be affected and athletics would require new organization.
In light of narrowing down their choices, Bozeman school officials have also moved to delay the multi-million dollar bond proposal for the new school. Initially to be brought up in November 2016, officials have moved the vote to May 2017 to avoid competing against the other multi-million dollar proposal –a new Bozeman/Gallatin County Law and Justice Center. The Bozeman community already approved expansions of Sacajawea Middle School and Hawthorne Elementary in 2015.
Although the vote might be delayed, the school district continues to gather funds to address Bozeman growth. The board approved a $550,000 property tax increase for 2016 for dealing with growth and building repairs. The plan will increase taxes by 9.9 million over six years. The 10% raise will hire 11 more teachers to address Bozeman’s 3.2% increase in enrollment. The money will also go towards repairs of school buildings.
In late February, the Bozeman School Board agreed unanimously to turn Bridger Alternative into Montana’s first Charter School. The school had originally been founded as an alternative program within Bozeman High School to help at risk teens graduate from high school.
Bridger Alternative’s program utilizes a competency model to determine how and when a student graduates. In traditional public schools like Bozeman High School, students complete a minimum number of days to graduate and also need passing grades. Bridger alternative students can earn credits by showing clear mastery of a skill, such as math, physics, English etc, allowing students to move quicker or slower through material when necessary.
Now that the school has grown to 80 students and has six full time faculty, the school board has gone ahead with designating Bridger Alternative as a Charter School. Although no immediate changes will be seen with the designation, eventually the school will be able to offer more performance based courses now that they aren’t tied to a public school and its rules. Currently, students at Bridger Alternative split time between the program traditional classes at Bozeman High. One day, with Charter designation and the ability to offer additional classes, students might be able to take every class at Bridger Alternative.
For the second year in a row, Bozeman High School has the best ACT scores in the state. Current Bozeman seniors averaged a 22.8 composite score when they took the test last year as high school juniors.
Montana averaged a score of 20.4 and the US average sat at 21. In 2014, Bozeman averaged a total score of 22.5, so test scores continue to improve.
Bozeman High surpassed the averages of all other State AA school districts including Helena, (21.5), Missoula (21.2), Great Falls (20.5), Kalispell (20.3), Billings (20.2) and Butte (20.2).
In general, only students who expect to go to college would take the ACT test. However, after receiving a 6-year grant, Bozeman High has issued the test to all its students. This year, 47% of all Bozeman juniors hit ACT benchmarks. Considering Montana averaged 24% and the US averaged 28 percent, the record reflected well on the high school and its quality of education.
Below are the scores by subject:
English – 75% hit benchmarks, 57% average in Montana, 64% in US
Reading – 60% hit benchmarks, 44% average in Montana, 46% in US
Math – 59% hit benchmarks, 41% average in Montana, 38% in US
Science – 52% hit benchmarks, 36% in Montana, 38% in US
When Bozeman students continue to perform well, it will continue to attract new families to the Bozeman area who hope to offer their children the best education available.
By Fall of 2020, high school age students in Bozeman may not all be attending the same school for the first time in the town’s history. Starting this year, plans for a second high school will be taken on in earnest, and Bozeman School District officials hope to present a finalized plan to voters by November 2016.
In order to have a finalized plan by then, school officials will need to put plans in place that work with their budget and local Bozemanites’ hopes for the school. This school year will be focused on open dialogue and communication between the district and the public to put together a high school that will satisfy all parties.
The Bozeman School District plans on asking voters to approve a 60 to 80 million dollar project. The school has a soft deadline of 2020 to complete the school because that is when Bozeman High School’s enrollment is expected to eclipse 2,400 students. Bozeman’s overall enrollment has been increasing yearly and hit an all time new high in 2015. Once Bozeman High School reaches 2,400 students, school officials plan on splitting those students between 2 high schools, both with the capacity to hold up to 1,500 students.
Already topics of debate surrounding the highschool are forming. Will the new high school be very similar to the current one? Will it function just to increase space and carry the same curriculum as Bozeman High? Is there any interest in creating a new, more focused high school to offer students a chance to focus on a specific craft? Will the new high school include some form of cutting edge project, whether infrastructural or educational? All of these questions will need to be addressed in 2015. Any Bozeman resident who feels strongly on any topic should make a point to have their opinion known before year’s end. Already, ideas have been presented to the school to build a magnet high school of 400 to 500 students, while Bozeman High remained more traditional.
The two high schools will still need to decide logistical questions as well—like whether they will share a stadium moving forward, or whether one school might build an auditorium for both.
The school will hire a consultant to put together plans for a new high school rather than school officials based on the consultant’s expertise and ability to put all focus on this project.
It is very exciting to see plans for the new high school starting to develop. The High School’s recent growth really provides evidence for Bozeman’s continued growth. Bozeman School District schools have been some of the best in the state, if not the best, even with the recent growth. Bozeman continues to be very attractive to young families as evidenced by the district’s enrollment increases.
Bozeman High School was rated the best high school in Montana according to US News and World Report Magazine. In their 2015 ranking of the best American High Schools, Bozeman came out on top for the state and performed well nationwide.
US News and World Report Magazine ranked the high schools based on student performance on state tests, minority student and low-income student performance, as well as how well the school prepares its students for college.
Bozeman performed admirably at the national level, earning a silver distinction for high schools. The magazine looked at 29,000 high schools across the United States and gave 500 gold medals, 2,207 silver medals and 3,990 bronze medals. Even if Bozeman were at the bottom rung of the silver medal winners, it would still rank in the top 8.7% of high schools surveyed. Red Lodge High, Hellgate High, Frenchtown High, Hamilton High and Park High were also given silver distinctions.
At Bozeman High, 43% of the 1,890 students passed their AP tests. At the start of last year, BHS was honored for having the highest AP test scores in the state. On state tests, 68% of students were proficient in math and 92% were proficient in reading. Bozeman currently has 10% minority students and 20% low-income students.
Bozeman High has worked hard at continuing to improve on an already excellent school. This past year, Bozeman established a program with Montana State and George Mason to study current models for teaching mathematics and looking at how they can be improved to increase performance. In addition, the high school was awarded a grant to implement and improve programs to help students deal with mental stress and health issues.
Its no wonder people continue to be attracted to Bozeman Public Schools. Even as enrollment has increased, the high school has done a great job in keeping its quality and performance up to its already high standards.
A 54 million dollar bill to cover the costs of inflation for Montana public schools passed through the legislature this past week. The bill keeps the funding for Montana public schools at the same level as previous years, by adjusting for inflation. The state will increase education funds by 2.3% and 1.8% over the next two years.
By passing the bill, the legislature has relieved many school officials from the stress of budgeting their next school year without knowing exactly how much funds they will receive.
For Bozeman Public Schools specifically, school officials have worked hard to achieve additional funding through grants and other programs, including their recent 3.3 million dollar award to fund new mental health programs in schools and their 1.3 million grant to improve student performance in mathematics. However, these people still need help from the state to maintain these programs and maintain the quality of their education overall.
As Bozeman has expanded, the local schools have hit new enrollment records, making it even more important to maintain funding and stay up with inflating costs. If the Bozeman School District wants to expand one of its middle schools and bring in new public preschool programs, proper funding will be a necessity.
Bozeman’s hard work to receive and deserve the funding from the Montana Legislature, along with its efforts to achieve additional grants has helped contribute to a 4% graduation rate improvement, the highest ACT scores in the state, and some of the highest AP exam scores in the nation.
Of course, all local, public schools in the area will see the benefits of the bill's passing. Gallatin County schools still remain top class institutions and will continue attracting new families to the area.
Bozeman High School has been honored as one of 547 school districts in both the US and Canada for student performance in Advanced Placement Exams. Advanced Placement (AP) courses are college level courses, given to high achieving high school students. The courses use college-level textbooks and have national exams that if students pass, can sometimes offer college credit. The students at Bozeman High School performed so well in these national exams, they were honored this week for their performance.
The Bozeman High School District was the only school district to win in the state of Montana. Bozeman’s pass rate was 86.3% in 2013. To be honored, schools had to have 70% of their class pass. In order to pass, students need to earn a score of 3 or higher (out of 5).
Since 2012, BHS has increased the number of students taking AP classes. From 2013 to 2014, the number has jumped from 872 tests taken, to over 1,000. Currently BHS offers 17 AP classes and the school holds a lot of pride around the availability of these classes to all its students. Many schools limit AP classes to only their best and brightest. In most cases, they don’t allow other students into these classes, in order to win awards like the one mentioned today. Bozeman, however, allows all students, no matter their grades in normal classes, to enroll in AP classes. And yet the school continues to perform alongside schools that only allow their smartest students to attempt Advanced Placement courses.
The Bozeman School District should be applauded for its continued efforts to improve the education and lives of its students. Per usual, the school leans towards the inclusion of all in any of their educational programs. High student performance, great new programs, and continued work to improve the school system should continue to attract new families to Bozeman.
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