Students of Rocky Boy Public Schools, at close to expected numbers, appear to be enjoying the space provided by the expansion of Rocky Boy High School this summer.
Rocky Boy Public Schools’ Superintendent Voyd St. Pierre updated the Chippewa Cree Business Committee on how the schools, from infrastructure to enrollment, were faring so far this year at their monthly meeting last Thursday.
The enrollment figures contained few surprises. The high school enrollment was about five students short of expectations, but St. Pierre said that was understandable from a small incoming freshmen class.
In the elementary school, Rocky Boy expected 321 students and, as of last Thursday, had 314. St. Pierre said this was expected at this time as well because many families take a few weeks to get settled and more students trickle in through October, or as late as February.
The high school must be feeling roomier this fall, with fewer than expected students and a recently opened multi-million dollar expansion.
Last month, Rocky Boy High School officially opened the expansion, which enlarged the foyer, upgraded the concessions area and added three new classrooms — a social studies room, a resource room for grades seven to 12, and a high school science laboratory.
“In my observation, I’ve heard nothing but positive comments, ” St. Pierre said. “Kids are not as congested as they were last year. They’ve got more freedom, more room to stretch out and not worry about getting crowded. ”
St. Pierre said the project added new bleachers, training facilities and locker rooms. Until now, visiting teams have used the only locker rooms, while Rocky Boy students changed in classrooms. Now both teams will have a more suitable place for changing.
The $3.7 million project began nearly four years ago, in January 2009.
St. Pierre said the project was partially funded through a relatively new funding source, Impact Aid Revenue Bonds
Impact Aid Revenue Bonds allow school districts to leverage their annual Impact Aid revenue for longer term, bigger projects.
The Impact Aid revenue comes from a federal law passed in the 1930s and modified several times since. Some school districts cannot collect local tax revenue from property or people that are federally exempted from taxes, like military bases or Indian reservations. Impact Aid was established to make up the difference.
“What we find is we can’t raise revenue from taxes, ” St. Pierre said, “so it’s real difficult for us to generate any tax revenue because there are very limited taxpayers in our district. ”
St. Pierre said Rocky Boy High School is only the second school in Montana, after Browning High School, to use this kind of funding.