Voters in the Bozeman School District will decide in May whether to OK spending $1.1 million for 37 acres in northwest Bozeman as a possible alternative site for building a second high school several years from now.

School Board trustees voted 7-0 Monday night to place the proposed land purchase on the May 6 school ballot.

School officials say they already have the $1.1 million in hand, thanks largely to insurance payments after hail storms damaged many school roofs, reducing the use of building repair funds.

Voters wouldn’t have to raise property taxes to buy the land. However, state law still requires that voters approve any school land purchases.

The 37 acres lie directly north of the new Meadowlark School on Durston Road. The proposed purchase is bounded by Cottonwood and Flanders Mill roads and the future extension of Oak Street.

The school district already owns 50 acres south of Huffine Lane, at the southeast corner of Stucky and Cottonwood roads, for a future high school site. Voters approved buying it for $3 million several years ago, when the housing bubble was inflating land prices before the recession hit.

However, Bozeman’s housing developments are cropping up more in the northwest part of town. Water, sewer and road services have reached the Meadowlark area but haven’t yet reached the Stucky and Cottonwood area.

“This is really an answer to a difficult site at Cottonwood and Stucky,” Trustee Denise Hayman said. “Back then there were not a lot of choices. Land was sky high. We’d talk to somebody (about a purchase) and the prices doubled.”

Steve Johnson, deputy superintendent for operations, said having two possible sites for a high school would give the school district options when a second high school is needed. That’s expected to happen around 2019 or 2020, when Bozeman High is expected to reach 2,400 students. It now has around 1,940.

Johnson said the city of Bozeman already has received plans for building 350 new homes within a quarter mile of Meadowlark School.

Trustee Andy Willett said he thinks it’s a great location. He asked how negotiators arrived at the price.

Johnson said the district first offered $27,500 per acre, the amount it paid for the 40 acres on which it built Meadowlark School. However, a housing developer was also bidding for the land.

Since it was the district’s No. 1 choice, officials decided to offer the owners’ asking price of $31,400 per acre. It’s still far below the $57,000 per acre paid for the 50 acres at Cottonwood and Stucky.

Johnson said an environmental study would be completed before the election. An appraisal will also be completed.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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