1914 schoolhouse

A man and a small dog in a golf cart drive by the historic Gallatin Gateway School on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020. The local school board is considering whether to tear down the schoolhouse, built in 1914.

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Gallatin Gateway School District is drafting bond language ahead of a proposed May election, after passing a $7 million plan which included renovating its 1914 schoolhouse.

In three upcoming events, residents will be able to provide input and feedback on the bond language before the board votes on it.

A community workshop on the bond language will take place Jan. 7. The district’s building committee will meet on Jan. 11. And the school board will meet on Jan. 20 to approve the language to be used in the election.

In late November, the school board passed the $7 million bond issue after the building committee recommended a plan that includes restoring the 1914 schoolhouse in its larger renovation plans.

Lessa Racow, a parent in the district and an advocate for renovating the historic structure, said input from residents has shown clear support for keeping the schoolhouse.

“The bond language must clearly state this and leave no door open for school administration to change direction and mothball or demolish the historic building after the bond passes,” she said.

In one of the bond language options, it leaves a possibility the historic structure might not be renovated.

It states the district intends to renovate the original 1914 building but if the architect determines it could not be renovated “except at prohibitive expense” than the additional classroom space will be provided by a new building or remodeling a different space.

If passed, the bond would be used to address facility deficiencies and deferred maintenance, and renovations to create a secure entryway, according to the district’s planning documents.

“The current concept design that has community support shows the historic schoolhouse being renovated so that it will be a welcoming and warm new front entrance to the school,” Racow said.

The plans include a renovated kitchen to include a commercial cooking space. The cafeteria and gym would also be expanded, including new bleachers. The library would be upgraded to include maker spaces. Some of the classrooms would also be reorganized and renovated to include STEM labs.

By including a restoration of the historic schoolhouse to ADA guidelines, the school would be able to have additional classrooms and administrative offices.

Previously, the district has said it expects at least 50 students from a new subdivision being built in the area.

In September, a school board vote was delayed when residents wishing to renovate the schoolhouse pushed for it to be included in any plans for an updated school plan.

Earlier in the bond process the building committee had been considering two options presented by the design firm Cushing Terrell. One would demolish the historic structure and the second would remodel the schoolhouse as part of a larger renovation plan.

The building committee voted to recommend saving the structure, reversing a September decision to demolish it after public outcry. The full school board voted in favor of the recommendation at the end of November.

Racow said people she has talked with are in support of the bond as long as the historic schoolhouse is restored.

“If not, many folks have told me they will vote against the bond,” she said.

Racow is encouraging residents to participate and voice their opinions on the bond language.

The Gallatin Gateway School Board will vote on the bond language in a Zoom meeting on Jan. 20.

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Liz Weber can be reached at lweber@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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