Voters in Independent School District 318 (Grand Rapids, Bigfork) on Tuesday narrowly approved a $68.9 million ballot question to construct two new elementary buildings and renovate another. The number of “yes” votes totaled 3,249, while 3,187 voted against the ballot question. A $5.1 million second ballot question addressing the district’s athletic facilities failed to garner enough public support.

Currently, the existing elementary buildings are rated to hold 44 sections of elementary students, however with classes overflowing to portable classrooms, there are now more than 50 sections.

Elementary students in the district are at four schools: Murphy, Southwest, Cohasset and Forest Lake, with fifth graders having been moved to the middle school. Shortened lunch periods and gym classes have been instituted due to overcrowding, and the three elementary buildings are not ADA compliant.

A recent report on enrollment trends for elementary students indicated that overcrowding will only worsen in the coming years with numbers of new students on the rise.

New buildings with improved technology infrastructure and full gyms will house Kindergarten through fifth grades, with capacity for 750 students each. The oldest part of Cohasset Elementary, built in 1922, would be rebuilt under the plan and that school’s capacity would be 300 students.
Design work on two new neighborhood elementary schools in Grand Rapids and renovation of Cohasset Elementary will begin this month. School district officials expect construction to begin next year and could potentially create as many as 600 construction jobs.