Bozeman Montana Real Estate Information Archive
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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.
The Bozeman School district received great news from the Bozeman community on November 3rd, when voters passed 21.5 million dollars worth of bonds to expand both the Hawthorne Elementary School and Sacajawea Middle School.
Now, district officials can turn their sites towards a second high school in Bozeman.
As Bozeman grows, the community will need to continue funding the schools to help them address the rising student population and keep Bozeman the wonderful community that has attracted so many new residents.
For the second year in a row, the Bozeman School District has grown to its largest size in its history. Last year, enrollment hit 6,294 people but this year, enrollment has grown by more than 200 students and has now reached more than 6,500 students. In spring, administrators had estimated a 170 student addition.
Now, a record 2,000 students will attend Bozeman High School. 1,470 middle schoolers are now between Chief Joseph and Sacajawea Middle School. And nearly 3,045 elementary students will be spread across Bozeman’s Elementary schools.
In light of the growing enrollment, Bozeman will ask voters to approve bonds to expand Sacajawea Middle School and expanding Hawthorne Elementary School. That vote will occur November 3rd, 2015.
The Bozeman School District has also started planning for a second high school in Bozeman. They want a new school in place within the next four to five years, when enrollment at Bozeman High, currently the best ranked public school in Montana, is expected to reach 2,400 students. The district is already in discussions with a few architecture firms to get the project rolling.
On November 3rd, voters will decide whether to expand the Sacajawea Middle School and Hawthorne Elementary School. School officials believe that with Bozeman’s growth over the past years, now is the time to expand these schools to better address the growing Bozeman population.
School officials will put a proposal to expand the Sacajawea Middle School before voters, costing 16 million dollars. They had considered building a new school, but the costs could have been nearly double.
The middle school has struggled with space issues. The school uses one gym for 700 students, its orchestra and band rooms are a little small and additional classrooms are needed as well. With the 16 million dollar bond, the school would build a new 8th grade wing, add classrooms to the 6th and 7th grade wings, add half a gym w/ additional health enhancement classrooms and add additional locker space.
The bond would cost a homeowner with a $240,000 property an additional $34.57 a year.
Bozeman officials will also put a proposal before voters to expand Hawthorne Elementary School. Hawthorn currently has two portable classrooms and a portable music room that would be replaced with a new, two-story wing.
The project is expected to cost 5.5 million, but school officials will use a Tax Increment Finance District to cover the debt—so ideally this project will not cost tax payers additional money. It would have cost a tax payer with a $240,000 property approximately $13.65 a year.
The School District has already moved ahead with selecting architects for the project. They want to get the ball rolling so they can be ready if the proposal passes. They are in negotiations with A&E Architects for the Sacajawea Middle School expansion (they helped build the new Chief Joseph Middle School) and Comma-Q Architecture for the work on Hawthorne.
Bozeman Schools have also started looking into the construction of a second high school, which is farther down the pipeline, but will be a needed project in the future
The Bozeman School District continues to work hard improving an already wonderful school system. Officials will put a proposed expansion for Hawthorne Elementary School on the November ballot, asking for 5.5 million to improve the school. Even more interesting, the district believes they can gather the needed funds without raising property taxes on Bozeman residents.
Current plans include replacing old classrooms and improving the cafeteria in Hawthorne Elementary, all while creating more space for the school overall. The portable classrooms that were installed in the 1980’s will be removed and replaced with a new two-story addition. The cafeteria will also move from the basement to the first floor and be fully updated. Finally, some playground space that was used for portable classrooms will now be opened up once those are removed.
In order to get the needed funding for these improvements, school officials plan on using tax-increment financing, or a TIF, to raise funds without increasing property taxes. The downtown TIF was originally used to help create the parking garage near Main Street, but the extra reserves were reverted back to school funding. Money cannot be used outside of the district it taxes, so Hawthorne became the natural choice for these funds. Normally, school funding needs to come from the voter approval of some form of bond, which would raise taxes—this scenario will avoid the tax increase.
Bozeman continues to have some of the best public schools around. Their high school was recently honored as the best in the state. Keeping up to date with improvements will keep it so and keep Bozeman as attractive as it is to new potential residents.
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.
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