By Web Master, 5-03-12
The staff of Kalispell Public Schools has provided a high level of instruction that has increased student proficiency in math, science and reading every year for the last seven years. Our students rank among the top in the state.
However, we are currently facing the challenge of maintaining these achievement levels because of a significant increase in student numbers and a change in demographics. It is an interesting phenomenon that although there has only been a small increase in new businesses and jobs within our community, our public school population continues to grow. Over the last 10 years our student population has grown from 4,782 to 5,710. The number of students eligible for free or reduced lunches has increased as well. Depending on the school, between 36 and 71 percent of our public school students qualify for this support. The number of students who live in multiple family or transient settings has also had a notable increase. In addition, due to the exceptional quality of our medical facilities, we have many families who come to our area and whose students require specialized medical and educational programs.
It is of high importance that we provide the additional support necessary to meet the needs of these changing populations. In order to address these needs, the Kalispell Public Schools board of trustees will place an elementary operational levy and a high school building teserve levy in front of our voters for a May 8 vote.
The passage of the elementary levy will allow us to address these instructional needs through additional personnel in next year’s budget. Although we have no open elementary classroom space, what we can do is provide highly qualified staff to enhance educational options for our students. The elementary levy will provide each elementary site and Kalispell Middle School with funds to provide interventions to students who require additional assistance, create small group learning options for portions of the school day, and add trained personnel to support teachers in the areas of reading or math. The key to successful graduation begins in the elementary years. We must ensure that all students’ skill levels are developed while providing offers of enrichment for students who already perform at or above grade level expectations.
• $211,500 is the amount of the levy, which will cost the homeowner $5.62 per year on a home with an assessed value of $100,000.
• Schools that would be benefited are Edgerton, Elrod, Hedges, Russell, Peterson and Kalispell Middle School. Additional personnel will be hired to support direct instruction and provide an improved support for technology to staff and students.
The second levy on the ballot is for a high school building reserve. We have a strong community partnership that keeps our schools busy not only with school instruction and activities, but also with Rotary basketball and volleyball; a wide range of community classes; tournaments; Glacier Symphony and Chorale; summer camps; and afterschool programs. Our schools are a community asset and due to the failure of recent requests for high school building reserves, there are many deferred maintenance and required replacements that have not been completed in our buildings. It is also important to maintain technology support to our schools. One component of this levy will assist with purchasing bandwidth and replacing computers.
High school building reserve levy:
• $825,583 per year for five years, which would cost a homeowner $10.62 per year on a home with an assessed value of $100,000.
• Schools that would benefit are Flathead High School, Glacier High School, the programs housed at Linderman Alternative Center, the Vo Ag Center, as well as work to be done on the track at Legends Field and to support a joint program to replace and add tennis courts for our student-use at FVCC.
Improving the environment in our schools and increasing the number of qualified staff has a positive impact on student achievement. When student success rises and a school system improves it attracts new families and businesses to a community. There is a direct tie between the health of a school system and the vitality of its community. To this end, our local chamber of commerce has endorsed both of the public school levies. Please vote on May 8 at the Flathead County Fairgrounds. If you reside in a partner elementary district you may be voting at your local school, if they are holding a levy or vote on that day.
Darlene Schottle is the superintendent of Kalispell Public Schools.
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