Amsterdam school is bulging at the seams and with two new subdivisions proposed in the area, officials are taking measures to make sure the small rural school doesn’t burst.
The school’s enrollment jumped by 20 students this year, for a total of 98, Gallatin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Ellen Fitzgerald said. While 20 students may not seem like many, the building is out of room. Students do not even have a lunch room or a gym.
The school’s situation is a unique one in the valley, Fitzgerald said. While Amsterdam has its own school district and technically is a K-8 school, students in grades seven and eight attend Manhattan Middle School. The Manhattan School District even supplies lunch for the Amsterdam School. Only Cottonwood School has a similar arrangement.
What does make Amsterdam like most schools in the Gallatin Valley is the effects of growth on the cash- strapped district.
“You can’t really do anything about it until it hits you, and then you are behind the eight ball right away,” acting Board Chair John Fowler said. “Twenty kids show up on your doorstep and you don’t have the room for them.”
The board will meet April 19 to discuss ways to help the burgeoning school, Fowler said. The district will look at its ability to generate a $1 million expansion bond and put it to the voters in the fall.
Trustees would like to add four classrooms onto the north end of the school, Fowler said. But questions remain if $1 million will be enough.
“We’re hoping it would be,” Fowler said. “But the problem with going with four classrooms is that in a few years you have to go back to the taxpayers for more. You would like it to be over and done with it once.”
One million dollars doesn’t seem to go as far as it used to, Fitzgerald said. The school may have to call on community members to volunteer for services like painting.
“I don’t know what you can get for $1 million with inflation and construction costs the way they are these days,” she said.
But developers of the two subdivisions are stepping up to help ease the burden, Fowler said. Amsterdam Village has donated eight acres for a possible school site, and plans to self-impose a $1,000-perlot impact fee to generate $372,000 for the school, according to plans. The developers, CTA Architects Engineers, will also donate free consulting, blueprints and grant writing for the school.
“You can’t stop development,” Fowler said. “And when you have a group that approach you like these people have, it’s a lot better than having someone who won’t to talk to you at all.”
Subdivision planners have been working with the community for about a year, said Wayne Freeman, director of CTA Landworks division. CTA has drawn up plans for a school to be built in three phases.
The first phase would build the additional classrooms, he said. The remaining phases address the school’s lack of a multipurpose room for lunch and gym use and expands the library. CTA also plans to install a fire hydrant and high-pressure water lines from the development to serve the school.
“We have a good working relationship with the school,” Freeman said. “We feel we have a stake in the district and we are making sure the school is successful.”
Another subdivision, Churchill Northeast is also looking to donate money to the school, said Brian Rippey, a developer’s representative.
Actual numbers are not out yet due to the early planning stage of the development, but the developers are “committed” to helping the school, he said.
If everything lines up, Amsterdam school may see construction in the Spring of 2008, Fowler said. But there is still a lot involved to get everything off the ground.
“We have to do something, because we are running out of room,” he said.