By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Four area schools will receive nearly $7 million in construction aid after applying for competitive grants from the U.S. Department of Education last fall.
The Hays-Lodge Pole school district received about $3.7 million for its new elementary school, said Hays-Lodge Pole Schools federal programs director Violet Doney Crasco, who applied for the grant. The elementary school is about 40 percent completed, she said.
"We're just so elated and happy," said Crasco, who found out about the grant late last week. "I just thank God. Our kids just deserve the best."
Harlem also received about $468,000 from the program. Harlem Public Schools Superintendent M. Neil Terhune said the district will use the money to remove mold and asbestos at the elementary school, and to upgrade its facilities for the handicapped. He said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified the problem during an inspection last year.
"Now we have the money to fix it," he said, adding that the grant will cover about two-thirds of the cost of the project. The Harlem school district applied for $650,000, he said.
Terhune said this is the first year special construction money has been available for schools unable to levy taxes, and that the program was the result of years of lobbying by the Indian Impact Aid Committee in Washington, D.C.
Rocky Boy and Box Elder schools will each receive more than $1 million in federal dollars for construction and renovation, according to a press release from RJS & Associates, a Rocky Boy-based professional service firm.
"We are extremely excited about these two grants as both school districts are in major need of construction and renovation funds," RJS chief operating officer Jim Swan said in the press release. "These types of funds are hard to come by and the program is highly competitive."
Box Elder Schools will receive $1.6 million and Rocky Boy Schools will receive $1.1 million in grants, which RJS applied for this fall.
Box Elder Schools superintendent Bob Heppner said the district will use the money to add 10 new classrooms, which will eventually house students in grades K-3.
"We're really elated that we got this," Heppner said. "We did a lot of work to get this grant ready, and we really felt we deserved it and had the need."
Heppner said several grades are housed in old military housing units that present safety hazards and have no fire prevention system. The grant will allow the classes to move out of those units, he said.
Rocky Boy will use its grant to replace part of the elementary school roof that had leaked and damaged the building, and to carry out other needed repairs.
The grants are part of the federal Impact Aid Construction program for school districts serving children on federal lands, like national parks, military bases and American Indian reservations.
Crasco said 227 schools across the country submitted applications for a portion of the $27 million available in the program.
This morning Bob Swan, chief executive officer of RJS, said about 21 schools were funded nationwide, and that Montana took about half of the available money.