Despite being one of the newest buildings in the district, Paxson Elementary School would still see about $2.1 million in improvements from this fall’s $88 million Missoula County Public Schools elementary bond.

Paxson was rebuilt at its current site in 1991, reopening the following school year.

Roberta Stengel, an executive regional director with MCPS, said that while the school doesn’t require the same level of technology upgrades as others because of how new it is, those needs still exist.

“It’s interesting to look at technology – the changes in tech that mean they have to be improved,” said Stengel, who served as principal at Paxson for six years starting in 2004.

When the school was rebuilt, technology meant desktop computers that weren’t connected to each other or the Internet, she said. Now, schools need infrastructure to support mobile devices that are connected wirelessly.

The main issue for the school is classroom space, Stengel said, and bond money would be used to add to the existing building.

Since it was rebuilt, a computer lab and multipurpose art space have been turned into classrooms. A move to all-day kindergarten also necessitated four rooms instead of two for those classes, Stengel said.

Another factor, Stengel said, is changes in where people live in Missoula – in more centralized areas closer to downtown. The result is slowly increasing enrollment at Paxson.

Bond money would also be used to reconfigure how parents and buses drop off and pick up students. Stengel said it was a problem even when she was principal – before recent enrollment increases – and is only getting worse.

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Coming Saturday: An in-depth look at bond-financed improvements planned at Washington Middle School.

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