A new elementary school will open in Belgrade in a couple of years to ease crowding, but the pressing question is how all the elementary schools will be configured.

The two current elementary schools include kindergarten through third grade, but that could change.

Administrators are looking to expand the number of grades in the elementary schools, Superintendent Candy Lubansky said. The new school is designed to accommodate kindergarten through fifth grade.

One idea is to turn all of the elementary schools into kindergarten through fifth-grade schools, including the intermediate school, Lubansky said. That would mean the district would have four elementary schools.

The Belgrade Middle School would house sixth- through eighth-graders.

“We’re really trying to look at all of our grades and look at our facilities and resources,” Lubansky said.

Any change would require studying, Lubansky said. For example, if the intermediate school became an elementary school, could the infrastructure such as toilet height handle the switch? Would the curriculum have to change?

“There are a lot of nooks and crannies,” Lubansky said. “It’s those little things you have to look at. Certainly, it would also mean revisiting our whole teaching staff.”

There’s also a geographical issue. Ridge View Elementary School in River Rock subdivision is separated from the rest of the schools. The school is already experiencing a tight squeeze.

Ridge View Elementary Principal Mark Halgren said the school conducted a study two years ago that showed 80 percent of the school population lived in River Rock.

Could the school handle having kindergarten through fifth grade?

“If we went to a K5 school we would be an entity all to ourselves with just River Rock kids,” Halgren said.

Drawing boundaries for the elementary schools would be a difficult task, administrators said. Currently, the school uses Interstate 90 as the boundary for Ridge View and Heck-Quaw elementary schools.

The driving force behind any changes will be the school budget, administrators said. The main funding mechanism is based on the number of students. The current school year funding is based on the previous year’s population number.

While administrators discuss the issue, Lubansky said the district will gather opinions from all district employees. Eventually, the matter will be brought to the Belgrade School Board for a final decision. The public will also be involved in the process.

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