The gravel road leading to what soon will be Belgrade’s newest elementary school needs to be paved, but exactly what the initial project will encompass and how it will be funded are still being decided.

Belgrade City Manager Ted Barkley explained that Bolinger Road north of West Main Street will be paved before the new school opens in 2021. The school site was chosen, in part, to serve families who will be living in the new, yet-to-be-built subdivisions that are being planned for the immediate neighborhood of the new school. Subdivision developers will be required to share in the improvement of Bolinger Road, Barkley said, but the road may need to be paved before they are required to do so.

“The school district’s timeline is pretty aggressive in having (the school) open in 2021,” Barkley said this week. “The school’s needs may happen before developers are done.”

For that reason, officials and engineers are scrambling to come up with the best interim plan for the project.

“The preference would be to build it out correctly to begin with, but an option is to build one lane with shoulders, and with possibly a paved path for pedestrians and bicycles and so forth,” Barkley said.

The other option being considered is to have the school district build the road to its final design configuration, with the understanding that residential developers would reimburse the district for their portions of the cost later.

Belgrade Schools Superintendent Godfrey Saunders agreed with Barkley that it would be ideal to have the project completed in a single phase of construction, but project engineers haven’t yet given the district a cost estimate, so he doesn’t know if it will be possible.

The best option “will be whichever meets our needs and is the most economical,” Saunders said this week.

Barkley explained that the city won’t be providing much funding for the paving of Bolinger Road, because it isn’t part of the state highway system and hasn’t been identified in the city’s capital improvement budget. Because the school will be located close to a mile north of West Main, construction will be costly.

“It’s a good piece of road – it will be pretty expensive to construct,” Barkley said.

The final decision about how to proceed will be made within the next couple of months, officials said.

In February, Belgrade voters approved a $48 million bond to address growing pains experienced by the Belgrade School District.

The bond had four components but in this case it addresses the purchase of 18.9 acres along Bolinger Road across from three large developments in the works to build a 60,000-square foot elementary school that will replace Heck-Quaw Elementary School. The bond also allows for the purchase of land and build a second school south of I-90.