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A suicide awareness and prevention plan that would institute trainings around suicide prevention for Missoula County Public Schools employees and volunteers received unanimous approval in its first reading before the MCPS Board of Trustees on Tuesday.

The plan, which will now be open to public comment, requires that the district provide training “in preventing, assessing the risk of, intervening in, and responding to students at risk of suicide.” The trainings would be made available annually.

The board also received a presentation from Don McArthur from MMW Architects regarding the company’s plan for renovations on Sentinel High School.

Plans include a new STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) center, upgraded bathrooms, a new heating and cooling system for the entire building, new facilities for the performing arts, and better security, among others.

McArthur said data about the school’s use of water and energy, and general satisfaction with the school’s use of space, are being gathered. That information will make it easier to consider sustainability moving forward, he said.

Construction is scheduled to begin this spring, with a goal of being finished by May 2020, McArthur said. Wednesday night, a public meeting and more detailed presentation of the renovation plans will be held at 6 p.m. in Sentinel’s Margaret Johnson Theater.

Trustees discussed granting a market analysis of four MCPS properties that will not be used for school facilities. That analysis would help determine the value of each property. MCPS recently gained ownership of the former Missoula College campus, which needs significant repairs and upgrades, said Mark Thane, MCPS superintendent.

“The intent at this point is simply to gather information that we can use for decisions at the board level, and to determine whether there’s interest in reinvesting proceeds from these properties in the Missoula College facility,” Thane said.

Trustee Diane Lorenzen opposed authorizing the engagement of a professional commercial real estate broker or consultant to evaluate the district’s properties, saying the board hadn’t yet discussed issues of public trust and land.

“I’m afraid we’ll get rid of land in the process of trying to get rid of buildings,” she said. “I remain opposed to going down this road at this point.”

Other trustees disagreed, saying understanding the market value of a property doesn’t necessarily mean it will be sold.

“I think it's important to know this isn't a decision to sell. We just need good information to decide how to proceed,” said Trustee Grace Decker. “This doesn’t preclude the opportunity to have exactly those conversations.”

The motion passed with all trustees present except Lorenzen and Vicki McDonald voting to approve authorizing the engagement of a professional commercial real estate broker.

The meeting concluded by moving to executive session, meaning no members of the public were permitted to attend, so that trustees could evaluate the superintendent.

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