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.