School board round-up, March


Citing the company’s community involvement and experience working with comparable towns and schools, the Ennis School Board has chosen 45 Architecture to design the Ennis High School expansion.

Nearly a dozen architect firms had expressed interest in the project and three finalists were narrowed down last month for interviews with the board. Ennis School District Superintendent Casey Klasna said 45 Architecture rose to the top because of its willingness to get involved with the Ennis community.

The next step for the district is to get a bond passed to pay for the project, and Klasna expressed confidence that the firm will be able to garner community support.

Design for the expansion is currently in preliminary stages. Klasna said a contract with 45 Architecture is being drafted for the board to consider and approve.

Steady growth in the district, especially in current elementary classes, prompted Klasna and trustees to move forward with the high school expansion.

45 Architecture’s relevant projects include a $39 million Great Falls High School addition and renovation which added 100,000 square feet to the school in 2020. They’re currently working on a $22 million project at Three Forks School District that, when complete, will add 45,000 square feet between the high school and elementary.


Alder School Board voted to revise an emergency Covid policy to retain mask wearing and current social distancing policies for the remainder of the school year. The board will revisit the policy as the school year ends and before the 2021-2022 school year.

One approved use of Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) funding is for school heating and cooling systems.

“Two of the board members are going to use a checklist to assess the current heating and cooling system in anticipation of a possible expenditure that would be made using the CARES funds,” Pam Birkeland, Madison County superintendent, explained.

The board passed a resolution for a permissive levy for tuition and building reserve, which will be published in The Madisonian before the end of the month. Permissive levy notices in the paper include an estimate of the amount of the levy, as budgets are not approved until August.

The board decided not to run a general fund voted levy but approved running a voted building reserve for $5,000 per year for five years, Birkeland explained.

“This would not be an increase to taxpayers as they have been paying for this levy in their taxes for the last 15 years or more. This voted levy helps the School District to maintain their aging buildings,” Birkeland said.

Caller ID did not end up working on the current phone system. Board members authorized the clerk to obtain quotes for a new phone system.

The board accepted the resignation of the custodian, who took a fulltime position out of district. The board approved hiring the current custodian to assume the custodian position.


Sheridan Superintendent Mike Wetherbee pointed out that Sheridan School District will begin its fourth quarter on March 22.

“We’ve made it through a whole school year while some people haven’t even started school yet,” he reflected in regard to Covid closures.

The senior trip, band/film class trip and a FCCLA national trip were approved by the board during the March 9 meeting. “Those are all steps back towards normalcy and I feel really good about the fact that we were able to have a conversation about approving all those trips,” Wetherbee said. The Spanish club trip to Belize has been postponed to the summer of 2023 due to coronavirus concerns in Belize. A mask mandate is still in place in the district.

The district’s Jumpstart kindergarten program is offered to four-year-old’s, four half days per week. The program will be offered full time for prekindergarten students next school year. Students must be four years old by Sept. 10 to register.

Funding for the AltaCare program was reported to the board. AltaCare, a program for student mental health housed in-district, is seeing budget cuts at the national level. Funding in part is received through Comprehensive School and Community Treatment (CSCT) grants.

“To lose the funding for such a program I think would be detrimental for a portion of our student body,” Wetherbee said, and put $22 billion as the deficit number for mental health programs in schools nationally. He said about 20% of Sheridan School District’s student body benefits from AltaCare.

The program could dissipate, but Wetherbee said the district would look for something else to support students in this area if that was the case. Funding wise, board members and administration are awaiting to see what happens at the federal level before moving forward with other funding ideas.

The board set a voted, general mill levy for the elementary school at $30,000. Down about ten heads in the elementary school, Wetherbee explained this funding would maintain what is needed in the district with a loss of students. The district will run a non-voted, permissive levy for transportation which will be published in The Madisonian by the end of the month.

A principal contract with Mr. Rodney Stout was negotiated. Wetherbee’s contract was ratified by the board.

Expenditure proposals were made for replacing the high school entrance steps, fixing the elementary heat exchange and eliminating an ice jam in the elementary playground. All concerned with student safety, these projects will likely begin this summer.

During the public comment portion at the beginning of the meeting, a parent brought up concern regarding threats of violence in rural schools.

“Rural schools are definitely a place where those kinds of things seem to be more prevalent at times,” Wetherbee said. No action was taken on this item, but it was an opportunity for parents to voice their concerns.

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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