I would like to address some of the misinformation that is out there with regards to the Whitefish High School bond vote. Since there are some who feel they should compare the Kalispell Courthouse renovation to the proposed building of a new high school in Whitefish, I would like to address that first.
The cost per square foot of the Kalispell Courthouse came in at an economical $156 per square foot. If we calculate the proposed renovation/new build of Whitefish High School using this figure, at 120,500 square feel, the total cost – construction alone would be almost $19 million. The current structure is 120,000 square feet so the same math applies. Since administrators are being commended for their good planning and excellent project management in keeping the cost per square foot so low, you should know that the actual construction cost per square foot for the proposed high school is $121, resulting in approximately $14.6 million, with additional costs being furniture and equipment, architecture and engineering, permits, bond costs, etc. Wow, that’s economical!
I would also like to address comments by Charlie Abell, formerly CEO of Whitefish Credit Union for 42 years, in relation to the high school. He said: “I’m a guy that says fix what needs to be fixed. Don’t be a throw-away society.” The Interlake also reported, “Abell said education is about teachers and educational opportunities, not the building, and that money instead could be spent on enhancing educational opportunities. He mentioned the district’s concern of losing students to the newer Glacier High School and speculated that Whitefish students are enrolling there perhaps not because of the new building but for the course offerings.”
If we follow that line of thinking then one might ask why the Whitefish Credit Union built a new building when they could have been happy with the old one? Shareholder dividends would have been higher if money was not used to build a new building. A bank or lending institution is not about the building but rather about the people who manage the money and who work there. That money could have been spent on enhancing other investment opportunities at the credit union. Would shareholders have moved their money to Glacier Bank simply because of the facility? Maybe because of the investment offerings they have?
Just as Abell and the board of the credit union felt that it was important to build a new credit union to attract new investors and not to have the staff, management and customers in the old building, a new high school will allow for a safer and better learning environment for our kids, a better work environment for our teachers and administrators and a reason for people to invest themselves and their money in this community. Just as the credit union decided to look at the big picture and realize that by making that investment they would improve their assets, we too must invest in our kid’s futures.
It is our duty to provide them with an educational environment that promotes learning and prepares them to leave here and compete in college with kids who graduate from high schools around the country. The current structure will not support the course offerings that Whitefish wants to provide to stay competitive nor will it allow for the technological changes that must be made to send our kids forward in this century. We owe it to the community and to the future generations of Whitefish.