REACH works to build new school in Dayton
DAYTON — The REACH Foundation has announced its plans to build a new school and community center for the town of Dayton in Proctor Valley.
Started this year by members of the community, Executive Director Kaci Santos explained that REACH has been in the works for the last couple of years. The conversation got started when parents, seeing the issues of the current school, came together wanting better for their kids. On leased Tribal land, the facility has no room for expansion due to the septic system being at capacity. This means the school district is unable to add school basics such as a gym and a cafeteria for hot lunches.
Though the normal process for creating a new public school happens through levies and bonds and a taxpayer vote, Dayton has been unable to pass such a measure over the years. Therefore, the idea of the foundation was born. Spearheaded by school board members and parents, an eight-member board includes a Tribal liaison, a principal, a school teacher, and business owners. Santos said REACH is involving “individuals from many different walks of life to make sure we’re getting all the right people engaged to take on a project of this size.”
Though it’s a private organization, the school the REACH foundation intends to build will be a public school leased to the school district. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the foundation simply allows for private money to be used for the school district in lieu of the tax funding they were unable to receive. And since the foundation kicked off in May, Santos said they’ve received over a million dollars in donations.
The facility will be built on 10 acres of donated land off of Big Meadows Road. With 1,400 yards of gravel and monetary donations from the community, architect Shane Jacobs from A&E Designs (a company that’s built numerous schools throughout Montana), is working to develop the full site plan.
“It’s not just a school, it’s also a community center. The vision is that there’s a health clinic, … (and) a gym for the public to use as well (and) a business center,” Santos explained. “(Right now) there’s nowhere for people to meet for family reunions … there’s nowhere for people to meet even for school concerts. So, we’re going all in with the vision.”
An estimated $20 million project, Santos said the plan will have to be implemented in phases. Right now, they’re focused on phase one: getting the site planned and utilities installed, then seeing the gym go up. REACH hopes to break ground on the gym next year.
“There’s definitely movement happening. A lot of individuals in the area know about the foundation, but there are a lot of people who don’t know about the REACH Foundation,” Santos said. “We’re working on getting the word out to people interested in donation toward education to help our students.”
Those interested in donating money toward the project can do so on the foundation website at ReachMontana.org. The website also houses architecture renderings and additional information about the project, as well as a letter of support from the school superintendent. Anyone interested in volunteering their time or expertise toward the project can reach out by calling 406-250-8453 or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org. The organization is also planning a fundraising event for February.
“This was all started by parents who said, ‘We need better for our children,’” Santos stated. “There are a lot of different ways for people to get involved. It’s been really fun.”