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School board tries to figure out next move

by Brad Fuqua & Western News
| February 10, 2011 1:49 PM

The vote on the bond issue is in … and

it didn’t turn out the way school board members had hoped.

Now, it’s back to the drawing board to

figure out just what can be done to continue offering a high level

of education to Libby’s youth. During a special meeting on

Wednesday night, board members shared a collective feeling of

disappointment that the bond failed.

Before continuing down the road of what

to do next, board members wanted to know why the public voted

no.

A variety of opinions were offered

ranging from fear that taxes will go up based on the reality that

Flower Creek Dam must be replaced to people not realizing the

severity of the situation because they drive by the school and

“everything looks fine.”

“Maybe we should shoot out all of the

windows,” board member Lee Disney joked.

But there were few of those light

moments during this meeting. The future of Libby Schools is clouded

with declining enrollment, shrinking budgets and the possibility

that teacher layoffs could be on the horizon.

If the board again goes to the people

with a vote, they want to know how to reach those residents who

voted no.

“It’s hard to reach everybody with that

information,” board chairperson Tracy Comeau said. “Not everybody

reads the newspaper, not everybody listens to the radio.”

“You guys tried very hard to inform

people,” Libby High School Principal Rik Rewerts said. “Those who

wanted to be informed were informed.”

Board member Paula Darko-Hensler was

disappointed that voters didn’t want to approve what she said was a

long-term solution that would have saved money.

“So, we have to go with a short-term

solution to keep the doors open,” she said. “And that would be a

levy and I don’t see any other way out of it.”

Comeau said everywhere she talked to

people, it seemed like a no-brainer to vote yes.

“The problem is we didn’t reach 1,800

people and make them understand that this makes sense,” she

said.

“You reached 1,100 people and that’s a

lot,” Rewerts added.

Although a sense of urgency seemed to

fill the air, school superintendent Kirby Maki told the board that

they have time to reflect on the election outcome and decide by the

Feb. 21 general meeting on its next move. Possibilities include

another bond election – perhaps for a lesser amount – or a tax levy

vote.

“If it’s a lower amount, then we would

need to consult with the architects,” Maki said. “You have to be

careful about what you’re going to lose … what people will get for

their money.”

Board member Tony Rebo agreed.

“At this point, it’s probably best to

have a work session with numbers from CTA and figure out what the

next best bang for our buck is,” he said.

Maki said if a bond issue election runs

again, it could severely impact any previous construction

schedules.

“The only concern I would have if we

run it again May 3, does that mean we’re into 2013 before the

project is completed,” Maki said.

The board plans to meet for a work

session following its agenda meeting this coming Monday. The board

will follow with its general meeting on Feb. 21.

Rewerts showed appreciation for the

hard work that the board put in to try to get the bond passed.

“I’m sorry it didn’t turn out the way

we wanted it to but I wanted to publicly thank you,” Rewerts

said.