BOULDER — Jefferson High School leaders say the last major bond issue for the school came in 1985. Now, the district is asking voters to approve $12.5 million for a major upgrade and expansion project.
Supporters of the bond say the existing building has a number of issues that need to be addressed. Some classes are still being held in modular buildings that were brought in several decades ago. Several classrooms and restrooms don’t meet ADA accessibility requirements. The school entrance is open, without many security features.
Adam Senechal’s kids currently go to Clancy School and will be coming to Jefferson next year. He is also president of a construction company.
“As a construction professional, I would tell you that I see a ton of need for this building,” he said. “The infrastructure – from things like the main water line entering to the heat system – are well past their lifecycle, and they need to be addressed. And they can either be addressed during a planned function – in a planned project like this – or they can be addressed through emergency when something happens that would force the school to shut down and deal with them immediately.”
The bond would pay for a new two-story addition to the school, containing new science, art and music rooms and classrooms to replace the modular. It would expand career and technical education space, bring the school into ADA compliance, replace aging boilers and pipes and fund security upgrades.
The district has been preparing for a possible bond for two years, to prepare for increasing enrollment and create an up-to-date learning environment. Last year, they conducted a community survey that showed most people wanted a smaller bond proposal to make improvements at the current building, rather than a larger one to pursue a new building on the county’s north end.
Clint Van Blaricom has a daughter who’s a senior at Jefferson High, and a son who’s a sophomore. He believes the district did a good job of including reasonable improvements and not pursuing unrealistic ones. For example, the bond would pay for an all-weather track – intended to allow the school to host more track competitions – but it didn’t include new turf for the football field.
“That would have been nice, but we wanted something that we could sell to the community,” Van Blaricom said.
The Jefferson High School District includes the northern part of Jefferson County. Much of the growth in that area has been in communities like Montana City and Clancy, where some families choose to send their students to Jefferson and others send them to schools in Helena or East Helena.
“I think there’s a lot of growth potential here,” said Van Blaricom. “I think in order to keep those kids coming to here from the North Valley, to get to experience Boulder and everything it has to offer, I believe that they need to do an expansion.”
“We’ve seen the great improvements that Helena’s made in their schools, we see the new school that East Helena has – it’s time for our community to step up and take care of our kids and provide them with a safe and an efficient building to learn in,” Senechal said.
The district says, if the bond passes, it would increase taxes $53.55 a year on a $100,000 home, $107.10 a year on a $200,000 home and $160.65 a year on a $300,000 home.
The district has already mailed ballots to registered voters. Voters must mail them back or drop them off at the school by Nov. 2.
You can find more information about the bond proposal on the district’s website.