By Martin Kidston

Supporters of the Missoula International School gathered Thursday evening to view the conceptual plans for a new $13 million home off South Third Street, one that would replace the program's leased building in the Lower Rattlesnake.

Julie Lennox, head of the private Spanish immersion school, opened the four-acre property and the former lumber warehouse that comes with it to share the school's conceptual plans for a new building.

MIS closed on the property in July and looks to break ground for a new school next spring.

“For the school building itself, if you take out the shared spaces, we're probably looking at an $11 million to $13 million building,” said Lennox. “We envision a capital campaign with our supporters and family members raising about half of that.”

The school will look to other grants and credits to help fill out the remaining costs, though the building's design could also change as the effort moves forward.

As it stands, the plans include a large main commons with glass walls rising the height of two floors. Classrooms are clustered into what Lennox describes as “neighborhoods.” The rooms are bundled by age, including preschool through first grade, and second grade through fifth grade.

A flight of stairs would lead to the middle school area, where students remain through the eighth grade. Administration offices line the length of the building on Walnut Street.

The plans also include a large art room and a digital dome theater.

“It's like a mini-IMAX theater, and it would also serve as our music room,” said Lennox. “We'd have really nice acoustics for music and theater.”

MIS has leased the Prescott School in the Lower Rattlesnake from Missoula Public Schools for the past 12 years. The building is old, costs a fortune to heat and maintain, and offers just 24,000 square feet of space, which includes a vintage gymnasium.

The new building encompasses 35,000 square feet. A future gym remains part of the plans and would be built in a partnership with the city as a shared community recreation space.


That portion of the project remains in discussion within the city. The two parties are engaged in a feasibility study to see if the partnership could work, and if it's something the city is willing to pay for.

As discussed earlier this year, such an arrangement would see the city lease portions of the site for indoor recreation, small-scale performing arts and new accommodations for the Missoula Senior Center, among other uses.

Doing so may cost less than having the city build a facility on its own. The cost of building a new community center at other locations has been placed as high as $20 million, and would likely require a general obligation bond.

Leasing the space in a partnership with Missoula International School would cost roughly $200,000 a year, city officials have said.

“At this point, we're still talking with city Parks and Recreation, as well as other partners about developing these recreation and community center spaces,” said Lennox. “The timing is going to be different. We're forging ahead with the school building and holding this recreation area in place.”


Contact reporter Martin Kidston at