January 27, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
by Patricia Swan Smith
For the Pathfinder
(Editor's note: ballots for the bond issue described in this story were mailed out Tuesday. Ballots must be returned to the Missoula County Elections office by Feb. 15.)
A bond issue is now before the Seeley-Swan residents for the needs of the Missoula County High School District One, which includes Seeley-Swan, Hellgate, Sentinel and Big Sky high schools.
The cost for the Seeley-Swan improvements would be $870,000.00. The total aggregate principal amount of the bond is $20,008,000.00.
The Seeley-Swan portion of the bond would take care of numerous problems: replace the gym ceiling ($125,000) and floor ($55,000), build a new school/community library and renovate classroom space ($340,000), upgrade chemical storage ($2,000), renovate restrooms for mandated access for the disabled and repair plumbing in the restrooms ($16,000), improve ventilation in the shop ($5,000), and repair the roof ($100,000) to name a few.
At this time, the high school district is free and clear of debt; a 20-year bond that paid for construction of Big Sky and Hellgate's addition was paid off in 1998.
According to the Missoula County Public School System, the average additional cost to property owners in Missoula County for the proposed bond issue would be approximately $20 to $30 per year.
"Although no one likes the idea of spending this amount of money, maintenance and program needs at each high school in the district are now at crisis level," says teacher Dennis Schneiter.
"Specific to Seeley Swan High School, the lack of classroom space in some situations deters from high quality public education. General maintenance issues at this school have for sometime been on hold because of the lack of money.
"I see the bond issue and its passage as a must to insure a facility capable of meeting the needs as we usher in the new millennium."
Schneiter teaches World and American History and Government. He is also the Student Council Advisor. He started teaching at Seeley Swan High in 1981.
Andrew Gideon teaches his English classes in a room with no windows. He refers to it as a "prison cell" environment. Besides the poor environment, the room echoes.
"I believe education, especially classroom education, is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our kids," Gideon said. "With the passage of this levy, this will show a community that cares about working together for the benefit of our kids and our future.
Gideon teaches 10th, 11th and 12th grade English and Journalism. He also coaches girls basketball and track. He has been at the high school since 1995.
One class each year is referred to as a "floater", meaning that one class has to be held in different rooms throughout the year because there is not enough classrooms.
"It is of great importance that the voters of the area pass the bond levy for numerous reasons, but most importantly, to upgrade the physical school environment that can be called inadequate by any definition," Ryan Murphy said.
"Former locker rooms, closets and custodial storage rooms have been converted into classroom areas," he said. "Some of these cells do not even have windows. Both gymnasiums serve part-time duty as classrooms. The temporary inhabitants of these echoing caverns are sent scurrying once the winter athletic seasons beginforced to seek new classrooms, closets or storage rooms.
"The pledge of every teacher is to provide effective and efficient learning environments. The bond levy must be passed to provide the physical base for educators to build adequate learning environments for all students."
Murphy teaches Biology, Title I Math and Integrated math. This is his first year at Seeley Swan High.
The new school/community library and multi-media center would provide both the students and the public with increased resources, which includes computers and access to the internet.
"This would be a key addition," Principal Kim Haines said. "This will give both the students and the community so many needed resources. Also we have to understand that regardless of the bond, the mandated renovation of the restrooms for the disabled will have to be done. This bond issue would be good for everyone in the Seeley Swan valley."
The new center would also provide more room to renovate classroom space.
Besides improving the school, some of the work that would be made would also cut liability.
"If you've ever been to a volleyball game in the high school gym and watched the tiles fall out of the ceiling after being hit by a ball and hit a student, you can understand why some of the improvements are needed," Haines said.
The Seeley Swan High School was completed and opened in 1964. It started with 135 students. This year there is 151 students, and next year's enrollment will be 172.
The school has grown from 4 teachers and a half-time principal/teacher to a full-time principal and 15 teachers.
The last improvement to the school was an addition to the existing library. The funds for that were donated by Liz Claiborne-Art Ortenberg Foundation.
"The voters in District One have a great opportunity to enhance and update the quality of our high school now and in the future by supporting the upcoming high school bond issue," said Rett Parker, Seeley Lake's Trustee for Missoula County Public School District One.
"Please show your support for our high school teachers, staff and students, both present and future by mailing your bond ballot today clearly marked 'yes'! If you have comments or questions, don't hesitate to contact me directly, and thank you for voting 'Yes for the kids'," Parker said.