Major Renovation Turns Stevensville Schools into Community Showcase

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STEVENSVILLE — After more than $20 million and more than two years of disruption, Bitterroot’s biggest school renovation is finally complete.

When Stevensville school leaders proposed, and voters approved, two major bond issues in 2019, the district embarked on an ambitious path to renovate both the elementary and high school. . No one was aware of the pandemic and the disruptions to come.

“It’s been a tough time for us in education and a real transition out,” Stevensville school superintendent Bob Moore said this week, sitting inside the new Commons of the renovated high school, just minutes after opening for the first time.

“It definitely helped us with the construction project because when the students weren’t there, they were able to accomplish a lot of projects that you wouldn’t normally be able to do while we were in session.”

In fact, timing was everything. The district was also able to take advantage of historically low bond rates and lock in the project ahead of all the supply issues and skyrocketing construction costs. And on Thursday, the community got to see the results. A spectacular metamorphosis.

“We really had darker colors, not very bright. We had old-fashioned lighting which was fluorescent lighting. Half of them were taken out for energy savings,” Moore said, thinking back to the buildings from three years ago. “And so we went to high-visibility LED lighting. We replaced all of our infrastructure for low-voltage cabling and computing. Fiber optics. We now have the whole building littered with fire.”

From the incredible high school commons with its open space, phone charging lockers and “Hive” cafe, to the colorful mural and elementary school entrance, the change is remarkable.

“The building was designed to have lots of welcoming spaces, perhaps none more than the brand new library, which faces the Bitterroot Mountains for a sense of place.

“We’re still in an old 1950s building in high school and a 1970s building in elementary school, but for the most part, you’d never know that,” Moore said with a smile, thanking the architects and builders. contractors for their suggestions and work.

Junior Brandon Seeber was trying out the comfortable chairs of the Commons for the first time.

“I like the changes, especially in the AG Shop there because the AG Shop is really nice now and not a building that was still, that was built before my grandmother was in school. Or even before she was alive,” he said.

This new Trades and Technology Center helps focus on vocational training, with updated classrooms throughout.

“And as a teacher, I’m just so grateful to be in a building in a community that cares about where I work, you know, and the kids I teach,” said Ayse Haxton, ninth grade English teacher. , as she showed her classroom.

Outside, it’s not just new entrances, but additional parking spaces and a vastly improved traffic flow before and after school hours. Additionally, Moore noted that careful budgeting allowed for many other projects to be added, such as the new gymnasium roof.

“We also designed a lot of these areas with the public in mind. Adult education classes, we have a lot of use in this building. it’s about big community gatherings.”

Meetings where people will surely marvel at the changes.

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