Construction begins on connecting wing between schools
April 16, 2021
In February of last year, Ekalaka Elementary District #15 was selected for a $750,000 grant. The money, awarded by the Montana Department of Commerce Community Development Division, was granted "for the construction of a connecting wing between the elementary and high school buildings to secure the entrance and playground security," according to a letter from the governor's office that notified the school.
The project to connect the two schools officially began last Friday.
The elementary and high schools share a Superintendent, District Clerk, kitchen and all other school facilities and amenities. Both buildings are used by all staff and students. The hot lunch program is in the high school building, as is the band room, main gym and Superintendent's office. The weight room, utilized by high school students, is located in the grade school building, as is the Special Education department, practice gym and conference room. Students and staff go back and forth daily and have to dress for the elements every time they move between buildings, losing valuable teaching time. Individual safety is a main concern, as students are locked out of the buildings when passing between them. Currently there are two offices (one in each building) where the public can enter. They have full and immediate access to the entire building before staff can speak to them or identify their purpose for visiting.
Hardy Construction out of Billings is in charge of the project. The total bid is about $1.4 million and includes fixing drainage issues around the elementary building. The new connecting wing is around 4,000 square feet. Around 805 square feet of existing space between the two buildings will be remodeled. Main construction will include four centralized offices and one main entry for the public, as well as the hallway between the schools. The offices will be used by the superintendent, counselor, clerk and secretaries. Current offices will become part of the new hallway and storage spaces.
Ekalaka Public Schools Business Manager/Clerk Lora Tauck explained that the project was started during this school year so that it can be completed before the next school year begins. Also, funds from the grant have to be used before the 2022 calendar year.
The school has worked closely with the Town of Ekalaka on the project as the connector will go directly over one of the town's main sewer lines that runs directly between the two buildings.
During the construction period happening throughout the remainder of this school year, Ekalaka Public Schools has moved pickup and drop off locations. Parents are encouraged to drop off their children in the southeast corner of the high school in the space that has been reserved. Individuals entering the school for district business will be directed to enter the southeast doors of the high school due to the inaccessibility of the former main entrances.