Facilities Planning committee presents ideas at public forum

By: 
CHRIS MCCONNELL
Outlook Staff Writer
Outlook photo by Chris McConnell.  Facilities Planning committee member Dan Story explains the proposed plan to address overcrowding and future growth in the Laurel School District to the Board of Trustees and members of the public on Monday evening at the Laurel High School auditorium.

On Monday, the Educational Facilities Planning Community Task Force presented its $52.5 million plan to address future growth, current overcrowding and aging infrastructure in the Laurel School District to the Board of Trustees and approximately 30 members of the public.
Facilities Planning committee member Dan Story outlined the plan which he stressed is about “planning our children’s future,” and addressing the issue of crowded classrooms.
Story estimated the immediate financial needs of the school district at $43.8 million, which he said would only serve as a temporary fix.
The plan is the culmination of a process that began in 2014 with a facilities report outlining future enrollment.
A summary presented by the Task Force reads:
In 2016 LPW Architecture presented 13 proposals to the Community Task Force of possible plans for our district. As a Task Force we discussed all the options and tweaked the plan that in our opinion would work best for Laurel.
There was an option to only do deferred maintenance to bring existing buildings up to code and added classroom space to meet accreditation. There was also a plan to tear down existing buildings and build new ones. We feel like we picked the option that is most cost effective and fixes most, if not all, of our issues.
In March, the group chose “option number 8,” which totaled $55 million.
Supt. Linda Filpula said they pared $2.5 million off the estimate and stressed the importance of the upgrades.
“The school we went through isn’t adequate for our kids,” she said.
The plan addresses current needs and anticipated future growth facilitated by increased home and property sales, new housing developments and the proposed Interstate 90 interchange.
Filpula suggested June 12 as the date to bring an official recommendation, which would allow 2-3 weeks of public comment. She stressed the importance of community involvement in the process warning, “this can’t be [only] five people trying to get the bond passed.”
Several members of the committee and community expressed the importance of presenting clear and accurate information.
Story cited the need for transparency in how the money would be spent, while encouraging the public to “think of this as an investment.”
Stephen L’Heureux, principal architect from LPW Architects, credited the passage of a recent $100 million bond in Great Falls to an informed public. L’Heureux said a secondary tech levy failed to be approved because of what he deemed a “lack of information for the public.”
The Facility Planning committee plans to work with community members to come up with the best ways to educate the public on the necessity of the bond.

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