Originally published in the 8/25/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.
LOCKWOOD — The Lockwood School Board unanimously approved a resolution asking the County Superintendent of Schools to hold an election to determine if the public supports the proposal to expand the Lockwood School District from an elementary district to a K-12 District. The mail ballot election will be held Nov. 7.
The resolution cited the new Montana law that allows Lockwood to consider adding a high school, pointing out that the school has the required 1,000 enrollment. Actual enrollment is 1,150. The resolution also included a legal description of the proposed boundaries of the high school district.
If a majority of voters agree to the expansion, the district would have two years to arrange for the creation of a high school.
Superintendent Tobin Novasio said that the passage of the resolution is historic, as was the writing of it. Since no school has ever before enacted the new law, there was no template for the resolution, and Novasio found himself having to create it. He said he has been consulted by the East Helena School District about wording of the resolution because they too are moving forward to vote on expanding their district to include a high school.
He said that East Helena is acting as quickly as they can because they believe that the Helena School District is planning to request a mill levy which, if approved would encumber East Helena taxpayers until it was paid off, whether or not they later expanded the East Helena District.
That would also be true for Lockwood taxpayers as part of District 2 if School District 2 built a new high school. That is in fact one of the “talking points” of the Lockwood Education Committee, which is planning the campaign in support of the resolution. Members of the committee were present during the board meeting last Tuesday, and it was pointed out in regard to concerns about future costs — it is almost certain that sooner or later SD2 will build a new high school – a much more expensive facility on the west end of Billings, which Lockwood parents will have to help pay for even though none of their children will ever attend it. The question is, “Do we want to keep our tax dollars in Lockwood or not?” they said.
In other business before the Lockwood School Board it was reported that they have come to a tentative agreement on a three-year contract with the paraprofessionals union.
Board members praised the new process of consensus bargaining which involves much more open discussion. Board Chairman Tim Sather said that he hopes that they will use the process and that it proves as successful next year as they negotiate a new teachers’ union contract.