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Hamilton, Victor schools to pose ballot issues

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HAMILTON, Mont. - Voters will want to learn more about ballot questions being posed by two Bitterroot Valley schools Tuesday evening.

Both Victor and Hamilton school boards are meeting.

Victor School is asking for a general fund operating levy to offset a shortfall due to declining grade school enrollment. The board will decide whether to ask for anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000.

Victor is trying to offset a projected $35,000 shortfall on top of a $40,000 shortfall last year.

It has reduced staff and services in recent years including a second-grade teacher.

There are tough choices for Hamilton voters as the school district decides how to balance the budget.

"I'm concerned about the quality of education for children," Nancy Valk, of Hamilton, said, "and in my case, my grandchildren."

Hamilton is faced with a $700,000 shortfall in the next few years and expects grade school enrollment to continue to decline.

The board will consider a $400,000 levy and a $9.75 million bond.

The district wants to close Washington School and consolidate it with Daly Elementary. Washington serves Hamilton's youngest students.

Under the plan Daly School and its programs would be upgraded to accommodate kindergarten through fourth grade.

The district has proposed relocating Haynes Field to the high school.

The old Westview Junior High School, which is adjacent to Haynes, and currently houses Bitterroot College could be sold, as could Washington.

"It could take some time," said Hamilton School Superintendent Tom Korst. "I would think possibly years to sell those properties. You never know, but it's like anything else. It could take quite a bit of time."

Korst said the board could ask voters to approve all of the options, some of them or none at all.

The proposals have been community conversation around Hamilton for months.

Valk is a business woman and a University of Montana student who is studying education. She plans to become an art teacher.

She hasn't made up her mind on all the options that are available to her.

"I'm still considering whether that's the best plan for the families," she said, "as well as the children, the teachers and the taxpayers."

Valk said she is concerned mostly about mixing the youngest kids with older kids at Daly.

The Hamilton meeting will be held at the Hamilton Middle School auditorium at 6:30 Tuesday evening.

Victor's school board meeting will start at 7 p.m. at Victor School.

Victor School is also hosting a community dinner meeting and academic fair on April 11 from 5:30 to 8:30 at the multi-purpose room at Victor School.

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