Gallatin Gateway school

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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The Gallatin Gateway School District’s board will vote on the fate of its 1914 schoolhouse after an outcry from residents wishing to renovate it delayed the initial vote.

In a special school board meeting on Nov. 30, the board will vote on the building committee’s recommendation to include the building in its renovation plans.

“Everyone agrees we need a bond issues to pass to deal with the existing building issues,” said Lessa Racow, a parent in the district and an advocate for renovating the historic structure. She helped organize support over the last few months when the school board was close to voting to demolish the building.

The committee has been considering two options presented to it by the design firm Cushing Terrell. One would demolish the structure and the second would remodel the schoolhouse as part of a larger renovation plan.

The two plans cost roughly the same but the replacement would give an additional 4,000 square feet of space for the school.

During a Nov. 23 building committee meeting, the members voted to recommend saving the structure, reversing a decision in September to demolish it.

“It’s been heartwarming to know I wasn’t alone in my love of that building,” Racow said. “It’s great working with other folks who want to save the building and hear the community thoughts on the building.”

The majority of the building committee were in favor of recommending a $7 million bond that would renovate the 1914 building while repairing and expanding the rest of the school, according to Racow.

A few of the members supported a $4 million bond to keep the historical building, while addressing maintenance needs and building a new school on a different site.

Racow said the reality is the school, which is on about 2.5 acres, is growing in population and the renovation talks have sparked conversations about the future of the school district.

She said the town is expecting to have at least 50 new students from a new subdivision development in the next few years.

“These are conversations that need to take time, and we’re just at the beginning of that,” Racow said. “It’s great to see the people thinking about it and recognizing the need.”

The options from the district’s building committee will be presented at the Nov. 30 board meeting, which will be held via Zoom at 6 p.m. Racow encouraged residents to tune in and continue voicing their opinions.

The board will vote on which renovation plan to send to a bond election next year.

“We need to pass a bond because we need to address the maintenance issues at our school,” Racow said. “I’ve been worried that if the bond included demolishing (the 1914 building), the bond would fail.”

She said the public interest around restoring the historic schoolhouse has also sparked interest in ensuring other historic buildings in the town are renovated. She said a group has formed to advocate for those buildings.

She said the group is looking at how to “create economic development for downtown Gallatin Gateway,” including adding sidewalks to Mill Street and capturing drive-by tourists on their way to places like Big Sky.

It’s something she said she never imaged getting involved in a few months ago.

“We need to come together in a more organized way as a community and develop a plan that works for our community,” she said.

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

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