Thoughts on school expansion

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Over the course of the past few months Iíve watched plans unfold for both the Columbia Falls elementary schools and the Boys and Girls Clubís plans for a new facility.

I know thereís a contingent that feel we should reopen the Canyon Elementary School and my initial reaction was that was the right thing to do as well.

But Iím not sure that will ever happen. Itís not because it isnít a worthy facility ó it is. But the county has already set up a health clinic there, (which takes up the current office and several classrooms) and the school district has no appetite for running three separate buildings. In the long haul, itís expensive to reopen a facility and itís expensive to maintain it.

Plus, weíd put a badly needly medical facility out into the street.

Consolidation is nothing unique to Columbia Falls. Like it or not, school districts across the country are consolidating buildings and staff.

Having been in all of the buildings recently, Iíd have to agree that Glacier Gateway has really seen better days and, save for the two gyms, a tear-down.

Ruder Elementary, on the other hand, looks to be in pretty good shape and thatís why Iím hoping that the school district and the Boys and Girls Club can come together to form a common solution that would serve the clubís needs and the districtís needs.

We all know the private sector can build a structure for far less than the public sector and Don Bennettís vision for a Boys and Girls Club facility could dovetail nicely into a project at Ruder and save taxpayers millions in the process.

My hope is the school board and the Boys and Girls Club can reach an agreement sooner rather than later. I know thereís issues with autonomy and who will take over the facility if the Boys and Girls Club should fail. But that seems overly negative. True, the Boys and Girls Club could fail, but it will only fail if we, as a community, let it, right?

I do agree with Marion Foleyís recent letter that any project will need Canyon, and rural voter, support. Right now the numbers Iím seeing from the district put the projects right on the edge. We only have to look at Deer Parkís two failed construction levies from last year to see that.

But I also think we can come up with an equitable solution with a meeting or two between the school board, the Boys and Girls Club, their planning staffs and architects.

Perhaps Bennett put it best:

ďRegardless of what happens to the Boys and Girls Club, the need is still there.Ē

Chris Peterson is the editor of the Hungry Horse News.

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