missoula willard high Missoula County Public Schools
Plans call for the Willard Alternative High School building to be torn down.

Montana district says it will demolish building that houses alternative high school

Missoula County plans to build a new school on the site, but some neighbors wanted to preserve the old building.

The Missoula County (Mont.) school district says it will move forward with plans to demolish the Willard-Alternative High School building, despite opposition from some neighbors who say the facility has historical significance.

The Missoulian reports demolition of the building is scheduled for next summer, and construction of a new facility is scheduled later this year.

At a community meeting about the building plans, Missoula County Schools Superintendent Mark Thane said that needed maintenance upgrades—plumbing and electrical systems, especially—would have cost up to $3 million, and the district did not have the money to make those repairs.

The district's web site also points out that the Willard building was constructed nearly 100 years ago and was designed for elementary students in stand-alone classrooms.

"Our proposal designs and constructs a 'new' Willard building due to insurmountable barriers and costs of refurbishing an aged building," the district says. "New facilities will give students the best chance of graduating prepared for both post-secondary education and the work force. 

About 30 people attended the meeting. Brian Upton, a local attorney and Willard neighbor, says he wanted to continue to fight the district's plan.

Thane says the district has responded to neighbors' concerns over the design of the outside of the new building. The Willard sign will be preserved, and bricks from the old building will be salvaged and used in the new school.

The neighbors expressed no complaints about the inside of the building; most of those attending said the design for the school seemed well thought out and beneficial to the students. Architect Tony Houtz with CTA Architects says the building will be "an inviting and energetic area" with a more open design, flexible work spaces and lab classrooms, something lacking in the old building.

The new two-story building would be large enough for 250 students, about 100 more students than the school has enrolled. It would have would have 14 classrooms, as well as a multipurpose space, a larger library, two maker spaces, a laundry and shower space, dining room and kitchen as well as a culinary lab space.

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