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Hamilton residents to hear strategic school plan

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HAMILTON, Mont. - The Hamilton school district is holding a town hall meeting on a proposed bond, a levy and a plan to consolidate campuses.

Fewer school-age children are moving to Hamilton, so administrators are exploring ways to offset a projected $700,000 shortfall in the next five years.

It includes a proposed $500,000 levy. There's also a proposed $8 million bond to upgrade Daly School to include a new gym, additional classrooms and classroom upgrades, mechanical upgrades, food service kitchen remodel, bus transportation upgrades and playground improvements.

The bond would also fund an athletic complex to be built at the high school.

It proposes selling the old Westview Junior High School and Washington Primary School.

NBC Montana spent Tuesday reviewing one piece of the "strategic plan" by visiting Washington Primary, where parents were busy delivering their children to class.

Washington serves students from pre-kindergarten through first grade.

In the plan Washington would close and be put up for sale.

Daly School would see major renovations and would serve students from kindergarten through fourth grade.

Some parents we talked to said they like Washington because their little ones are separated from the older kids.

"It gives them more time to be children," said parent Alexandra Stuart.

But Stuart is open to learning more about the consolidation plan.

So is parent Terra Foster. She also likes keeping little kids separate from older students. She has another child at Daly.

"It would be more convenient," said Foster. "But as a mom I kind of like the way it is now."

If voters are asked to approve the sale of Washington some proceeds would be used to upgrade the middle school.

Washington has not been appraised.

Washington is a downtown Hamilton school, one block from Main Street, a short walking distance to the library, middle school and the business district.

Many parents we talked with said they like the idea of being able to walk to so many services, like the Ravalli County Museum, which often hosts school children.

But we met Randal Miller as he took his young son to the library. He thinks consolidation is an "intelligent step."

He said Daly has plenty of land to expand on and is a "centralized location."

"Hamilton is not just confined to Marcus Daly's original blueprint of the town," he said. "It's grown."

But Shawn Quinn thinks consolidation is a bad idea.

"I think in five years," said Quinn, "enrollment numbers will come back up and they'll be asking for a school levy to build a new school."

The district said consolidation is expected to save $400,000 and will better serve students more efficiently into the future.

A town hall meeting on the strategic plan is scheduled Wednesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Hamilton Middle School.

The Hamilton school board will consider the proposed strategic plan in mid-March.

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