2019-08-16 Anderson School

Anderson School is south of Bozeman off Cottonwood Road.

Walking into Anderson School on Wednesday morning, Superintendent Scott McDowell felt pretty excited knowing that voters had just passed a $6.9 million bond to replace the old, problem-plagued half of the school with a new classroom wing.

When Gallatin County elections officials finished the unofficial vote count Tuesday night, it was 300 votes in favor to 219 against, or 58% approval. Among the Anderson School board trustees and staff at the courthouse awaiting results, there were lots of hugs and high-fives.

“We were all in disbelief, shock, excitement,” McDowell said. “We kept saying, ‘Wow!’”

“I feel great,” McDowell said, “and still kind of in a state of shock. We knew we’d done the work to inform people, but we were really not sure how it would go. This is going to be great for kids.”

The turnout was a larger-than-usual 53% and the margin of support was bigger than any other levy or measure put before voters in recent years, he said.

Architecture 118 is ready to start working on detailed plans for the new wing, which will create new classrooms for 150 kindergarten to sixth-grade students. The new wing will be built directly south of the school’s newer half.

Architects intend to gather comments from students and community members and work up the plans so that construction can start next spring.

Anderson School, located on Cottonwood Road just west of the Bozeman elementary school district, has 200 students in all, from kindergarten to eighth grade.

The plan is to build the new wing and then demolish the old “brown” half of the school, built over the last 30 to 45 years.

The old wing has an aging, unreliable wheelchair lift, windows with cracked frames, ceilings that leak, some wooden foundations, no fire safety sprinklers, too few bathrooms, poor ventilation, small classrooms and a crowded storage room that doubles as teaching space. The school also has an old septic system that needs $350,000 in repairs.

Once the old wing is gone, the plan is to pave that area to create a safer layout for buses and parents dropping off kids at school and improve parking.

The goal is to complete construction two years from now, McDowell said. Dick Anderson Construction will be the general contractor.

School supporters went door to door, visiting 90 percent of the homes in the district, to hand out brochures explaining the need before ballots were sent out in mid-September. They also attended homeowner association meetings and barbecues to explain the bond issue. The superintendent said he thinks that outreach is what made the difference in this election.

Voters didn’t question the need for a new wing, McDowell said.

“It was more the price tag,” he said. “One of our biggest concerns was can we really pass this after the high school?

“We decided we had to try.”

Voters in the Bozeman High School district, which includes the Anderson, Gallatin Gateway, Monforton and LaMotte rural elementary districts, passed a record $125 million bond issue two years ago to build Bozeman’s second high school.

Anderson’s bond issue is expected to increase property taxes for homeowners by $9.53 a month or $114.36 a year for every $100,000 of a home’s state-assessed market value. That’s in addition to regular school taxes that pay for everyday school operations.

“It’s great to know we have the support of our voters,” McDowell said.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2633. Follow her on Twitter @gailnews.

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