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MCPS Officials Come up With Long-Term Plan For School Facilities

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MISSOULA -

It's the first time Missoula County Public School officials are taking an in-depth look at local school facilities and how they can better serve a growing number of students.

A committee started meeting Monday, and Wednesday was the first night they shared their findings with the community. A capacity study shows in four years seven out of nine Missoula Elementary Schools will be at or over capacity.

"Most of our schools in Missoula Public Schools are old or outdated and we need to remodel them or maybe build new schools," said mother, Brandee Tyree.

She was just one of the community members crowded in the Linda Vista Golf Course club house looking to better their children's education.

"It's always nice as a parent when your school wants your input, and they take care of your kid all day. Its wonderful," said Tyree.

Wednesday was the first of a series of public listening sessions on the first ever 15-year-plan for Missoula County Public Schools, a plan MCPS officials call one of the largest efforts in the district's history.

"We need to make sure facilities and school buildings are up to date and can provide good education," said Hatton Littman with Missoula County Public Schools.

A demographic and capacity analysis by architects on the project show in four years MCPS will have almost 500 more elementary students. It shows in eight years almost 400 more middle school students will be enrolled, putting all middle schools over capacity.

"One of pressures is growth in schools population is going to cause an issue," Littman said.

Officials have a range of options to consider for each building, including "leave as is" and "start over". They said the way the schools are built and their location aren't the only thing they're looking at.

Littman said, "That could look like how we do project-based learning. It could look like what are we doing in terms of technology? Do we have enough technology in students hands, or do we need to increase that?"

After three separate phases of meetings, the planning committee will make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees, which has the final say.

Second community meeting will be held on November 6, and the final community meeting is set for December 4.

These improvements will be made through a 21st century bond issue that will go into effect in the fall of 2015. That bond will also pay for improved security, safety and technology.

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