By Michael Howell
The Stevensville community turned out on a beautiful, clear August morning last week to dedicate the new building that will house the 4th to 8th grade classes on the Stevensville School District campus.
Stevensville School Superintendent Kent Kultgen gave a brief overview of the history of the development from the time that serious conversation first began back in 2007 to the opening of the doors. It was former School Board Trustee Ed Cummings, he said, who first met Paul Bishop, who would become the project manager for the school, at a workshop Cummings attended in 2009.
As luck would have it the school qualified for a unique offering at the time called Quality School Construction Bonds. The proposed building project qualified for a $10 million bond award and the school board made plans for construction of a new 4 to 8 grade classroom building as well as a new band/choir and multipurpose room for the high school. Plans were drawn up for an $8.8 million elementary school bond and an $800,000 high school bond for construction of the new music and band room building. Voters approved the elementary school building bond in November of 2009, but the high school bond was defeated. Not to be put off, the school’s administrators kept working on the idea and applied for an $828,000 grant which was awarded in May of 2010 for construction of the music building.
The icing on the cake came when Rocky Mountain Bank of Stevensville purchased the building bond at zero percent interest. It is the only school building bond in the nation that has sold for zero percent interest, according to School Board Chair Cathy Cook. Kultgen noted that, as a result, the Stevensville taxpayers will end up paying only about $6.9 million for the total construction project rather than something closer to $14 million if it had gone at the usual interest rate.
Friday’s celebration marked the opening of the new 4th to 8th Grade building and the completion of the first phase of the project. Phase two, construction of the new band/choir, kitchen and multi-purpose facility, is well underway and is slated to be complete by December or January. Phase three of the development involves parking lot development including two new bus lanes and two new car lanes for dropping off and picking up students. It will also involve some landscaping and trees and may be completed by this fall.
Kultgen said three words summed things up: “dedication, confirmation and legacy.” He said the project depended upon the dedication of the school staff, administration and board as well as the community and that the successful completion of the project confirmed the strong relationship between the school and the community.
The result, he said, is not just a building, but a legacy for future generations.
Journalist, publisher and Stevensville Civic Club member Dale Burk spoke about the community’s involvement and support for the project. He said that during these hard economic times the building bond was a tough sell.
“But when push came to shove,” said Burk, “we in Stevensville stood up for our kids. We stepped up to the plate and we hit a home run. You did it. They did it. We did it. And every student who comes to this school from this time on will benefit from it.”
State Superintendent of Schools Denise Juneau, who attended the ceremony, said, “Things like this don’t happen very often, but when they do, it’s because of the community.”
Juneau noted that she did visit Stevensville during her election campaign and got a tour of the old buildings still in use at the time. “To come back around just a few years later, and see the culmination of all your hard work, all your community support, and you rallying around the support of your children, is just an incredible event to be at.”