The Bozeman School Board will vote tonight on a plan to fast-track constructing an eighth elementary school by approving a deal to buy 40 acres for $1 million and hiring the same architects who designed Hyalite School, so that the new school could open in one year instead of two.

The 40-acre parcel is north of Durston Road, between Cottonwood Road and Flanders Mill Road. Near Heritage Christian School and the Adam Bronken soccer complex, it is owned by Vesta Fern Anderson and Baxter Ranch Holding Limited.

If the deal is endorsed by the School Board, the purchase would still have to be approved by Bozeman elementary district voters in the May 9 school election.

School officials have been saying for months that Bozeman’s elementary schools are essentially full, even though Hyalite School just opened in 2009.

Bozeman has been experiencing a baby boom. Enrollment is expected to grow by another 154 students next year and 162 the year after, based on the number of births in the previous five years at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital.

“We’re not building based on projections—we’re full right now,” Superintendent Kirk Miller said in November. “We need right now to start taking action.”

School officials had been hunting for 10 acres for a new elementary school, as well as 30 acres they expect will be needed in the next few years for a third middle school.

The School Board will also vote on whether to fast-track construction of the new school so that it could be ready to open by September 2013, instead of 2014. That would mean using essentially the same architectural plans used for Hyalite School, which was based on the Morning Star and Emily Dickinson school designs.

To save time and money, school administrators recommend hiring Prugh & Lenon Architects, which designed Hyalite and has legal rights to the drawings, to adapt those plans for the new school. School Board trustees would have to vote to suspend their policy requiring competitive bids from local architects.

When Hyalite was under construction, the six elementary schools were full, so for two years, “primary centers” were set up for kindergartners, and first- and second-graders in Bozeman’s two middle schools. The fast-track plan would mean housing children with such temporary solutions for one year, instead of two.

The School Board will also decide whether to hire a general contractor construction manager, to come up with cost estimates, oversee construction and find ways to keep costs down. Competitive bids would be sought.

How much the new school would cost isn’t yet know. Voters approved $17 million to build Hyalite School, but thanks to the construction bubble bursting, labor and material costs fell. The school was completed for $15 million.

Voters would be asked May 9 to approve bonds for the eighth elementary.

To pay bills in the meantime, school officials propose spending $110,00 from the elementary building repair funds to pay for preplanning by the architect and contractor, and geotechnical and environmental studies.

If the 40-acre land purchase is approved, the deal would be contingent on an appraisal by Feb. 29, an environmental clean bill of health by June 29 and annexation by the city of Bozeman.

Complete information on the proposal is contained in the agenda for Monday night’s School Board meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. in the Willson School boardroom.

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