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Twin Bridges, Montana

Twin Bridges school ahead of schedule
By Perry Backus of The Montana Standard

September 16, 2003

Twin Bridges school is ahead of construction schedule.
David Whitesell, Twin Bridges school superintendent, checks the recent progress of the $3.4 million school renovation project in front of the construction site. Photo: Perry Backus / The Montana Standard

An early start last spring and perfect 
summer weather could spell good news for school kids in Twin Bridges on ambitious construction project to update the town's school.

The nearly $3.4 million project to rebuild the high school, add a large multipurpose room and classrooms to the elementary is well underway and may even be completed earlier than initially expected.

"Right now, we're at least two months ahead of schedule," said Josh Mullaney, Swank Construction's project superintendent. "We've received a lot of help from the weather and some help from the school district by being as lenient as possible."

Mullaney said the fact that the teachers and students put up the sounds of jackhammers and other disruptions last spring helped workers get a jumpstart on the project.

"There are a lot of good people in Twin Bridges to work with," Mullaney said. "We still sticking with our scheduled completion date of June 31, but if nothing out of the ordinary happens, we will probably be done by March or April." 

Construction started not long after voters overwhelmingly supported the bond issue last spring.

The decision to tear down the 81-year-old high school came

following a minor earthquake that opened gaping cracks in the walls and ceiling of the aging brick building.

"The old building came down in a day," said David Whitesell, Twin Bridges school superintendent. "When the bricks came down, it sounded like glass breaking. We wanted to do something with the bricks, but they just crumbled on you. There was nothing we could do."

"The way she (the building) came down pretty much reinforced what the architects were telling us," Whitesell said. "It just crumpled. There was no steel reinforcement in the walls."

"It came down the right way, without anyone in it," he said.

The new construction is built to federal earthquake standards. As the new rooms are taking shape, people are starting to get excited about the possibilities, including the potential of combining the school's library with the town's and the whole host of activities the new multipurpose room can handle.

"A lot of people didn't realize the size of building we were getting," said Whitesell.

"We brought the kids down to see their new classroom and they were all excited," Whitesell said about the addition to the elementary school. "In fact it was hard to tell who was more excited, the teachers or the kids."

Four new classrooms are close to being completed at the west end of the elementary school. The hope is that students will be able to move into them sometime around the first or second week of October.

The rooms are large enough to allow teachers to follow the latest trends in primary education and incorporate learning centers into the classroom, said Whitesell.

"We've got some things going on here that are really neat to be a part of," he said. "Our staff has been absolutely phenomenal through all of this. Our kids have been adjusting well and the community has been wonderful. This really is a great place to be."

When the construction is completed, the entire K-12 school district will be connected under one roof.

"There will be more a K-12 identity here at the school, which is what we try to promote," Whitesell said. "We want education in Twin Bridges to be consistent, with continuity throughout. It makes us one big family."

Copyright Perry Backus and the Montana Standard, reproduced by permission.


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