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School board commits to replace Asa Wood

by Brad Fuqua & Western News
| August 20, 2009 12:00 AM

The Libby School Board on Monday night agreed to move forward in its pursuit of a new elementary school building. The aging building, constructed in the 1950s, has been a point of concern for school board members.

Kirby Maki, school superintendent, believes it’s time to move on to a new building.

“My view is not putting a lot of money and maintenance into a building that’s past its prime,” Maki said Tuesday. “The infrastructure with the electrical, the plumbing, the technological, we can’t go any further. Basically with the vermiculite in the block or whatever, it’s problematic.”

A 2010 appropriations request was submitted months ago to Sen. Max Baucus, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee. Baucus has become familiar with Asa Wood’s condition and went on a tour of the school last summer.

“We are requesting to be placed on the president’s budget request for FY 2010 to receive as much funding as possible to help us finance the total cost of this project … for a modern facility that provides for the safety and academic needs of our children,” the letter to Baucus reads.

The letter also points to the Feb. 22, 2008 incident when snow removal equipment knocked a three-inch hole in the building, which exposed children to asbestos. The school was constructed using vermiculite insulation in the hollow cavity of its cement block walls.

“The school district/community does not have the resources available to finance the construction of a new elementary school due to population decline, high unemployment and extreme poverty rates,” the letter reads.

The appropriation request totals $11,724,000.

 “If we get federal money from an appropriation, that’s a good thing,” Maki said. “If not, then maybe we go for a bond issue. And if it doesn’t pass, at least we will have gone through that route and then go on to plan B. But we have to have a plan.”

The school board scheduled a work session on the Asa Wood building issue for Sept. 14 at 5 p.m.

In other school board news:

• The school board opened up five bids on a Libby High School window replacement project. The district is following up on bids this week and scheduled a meeting at noon Friday to announce a contract.

• The Environmental Protection Agency’s activity-based sampling on school campuses experienced delays because of wet weather and could continue well into September, Maki said. The latest estimate called for sampling to wrap up by Sept. 11-12, but Maki said that could again move back based on weather. One of the requirements for accurate testing is a two-day waiting period following moisture.

• The school board approved several certified and classified employee contracts for the coming school year along with the approval of coaches, advisers and grant employees.

• The school board unanimously approved the final budget for fiscal year 2010 during a special meeting on Aug. 10. The budget includes $8.0 million in the general fund, $610,000 in transportation and $1 million in retirement.