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Fate of Libby School Unknown As District Faces Cuts
School board votes on a $350,000 school levy
Asa Wood Elementary School. - Photo courtesy of the Kootenai Valley Record
The fate of a shuttered school in Libby remains unknown, as School District 4 faces stiff cuts in the coming months, according to Superintendent K. W. Maki. On Nov. 12, the school board discussed what to do with Asa Wood Elementary School and approved a $350,000 education levy to be voted on next spring.

Maki said the levy would go toward covering the Libby school district’s $700,000 budget shortfall, but even if it does pass, the district will have to lay off four or five teachers in the coming months.

“We’re just sort of between a rock and a hard place,” Maki said. “We just can’t shrink anymore.”

Maki said if the levy doesn’t pass next May, the resulting cuts could be even deeper, with five to six more teachers losing their jobs. Although the public won’t vote on the levy until next May, Maki said he hopes the school board will be able to make a convincing case to support the levy in the next six months.

“We hope the public understands where we’re at and will support us and the kids,” he said.

Some school board members have suggested selling the shuttered Asa Wood Elementary School to raise money. The school was shutdown in 2011. During the Nov. 12 meeting, the board directed Maki to find the value of the Asa Wood building, the school district administration building and a piece of property behind the old McGrade School.

Maki himself is opposed to selling the building and property at the old Asa Wood Elementary site, saying its location is perfect for a community center.

“We’re in major discussions about what to do with the building. Do we board it up or do we get some use out of it?” Maki said. “At some point it’s going to be a very valuable piece of ground.”

Earlier this year, the school board voted to ask the Environmental Protection Agency to remove vermiculite asbestos from the walls of the old school, which was closed in June 2011, and then demolish the infected section. Maki had said two buildings would remain on an attractive and centrally located 9-acre piece of property. Eventually, the EPA decided it would not demolish any part of the building and would only remove the asbestos, per agency regulations.

“We understand and are sympathetic to what the school board wants to do, but we've got to stand behind our regulations,” EPA Superfund Program Director Bill Murray told the Beacon earlier this year.

As of late this fall, the asbestos remained in the building, but it is not a threat to the public because it is not exposed. Maki said a few local groups have used the building this fall, including Coats for Kids and a children’s ballet class. Maki said one of the largest expenses has been heating the structure so pipes don’t freeze.
 
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