Education

Boise Schools consider record $217 million building program

Replacing Pierce Park Elementary, housed in a 1938 building

Don Coberly, Boise School District superintendent, reflects on Boise's aging school buildings.
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Don Coberly, Boise School District superintendent, reflects on Boise's aging school buildings.

Boise School District voters could be asked to pay for a 10-year, $217 million school construction program that would rebuild six elementary schools, add a new elementary school and renovate 15 other schools, including an expansion at Timberline High School in southeast Boise.

School board trustees have yet to sign off on the district’s most ambitious construction program ever. The public will be invited to review it next month. A measure might go on the ballot in March.

The initial plan, prepared by a consultant in response to a district request, followed a yearlong effort to evaluate what it would take to upgrade aging buildings to meet 21st century education needs, school officials say.

When the district did a similar building study in 2006, it resulted in a $96 million bond issue that paid for construction of several schools.

“If we don’t do them now, we will have to do them later,” said Nancy Gregory, school board president.

The Boise district has some schools built in the mid-20th century that are wearing out, and some that are poorly wired for today’s technology. Some have old gyms that lack adequate playing surfaces, and others have cafeteria/gym/auditorium combinations that make scheduling difficult.

Q: What schools does the district want to rebuild?

A: Two of them have already drawn attention:

▪ Amity Elementary in Southwest Boise is plagued with a leaky sod roof that is nearly impossible to fix.

▪ Whittier Elementary in the West End has growing enrollment growth because of its dual language program, and it expects that to continue. Amenities such as Esther Simplot Park, nearing completion, are attracting residents. The College of Western Idaho wants to build a Boise campus nearby, and that could attract more.

Three other schools — Highlands, Mountain View and Valley View — were built for baby boomers. “They are older buildings that need to be replaced,” said Coby Dennis, deputy superintendent.

$326 millionThe estimated value of all of the district’s building needs

Pierce Park Elementary, at 5015 N. Pierce Park Lane, opened in 1911 and the current building was constructed in 1938. The school was considered for closure 10 years ago because of low enrollment. It is showing its wear inside and out.

See a complete list of proposed major renovation projects on page 4A.

The plan also calls for funding several maintenance projects that have been deferred at other schools.

Q. Why does the district need a new school if enrollment is not growing?

A. While overall enrollment is down slightly to about 25,200, parts of Boise are growing and getting additional students. New construction at Harris Ranch in Southeast Boise is filling up nearby schools such as Riverside and Adams elementaries. A 550-student elementary school at Harris Ranch would allow the district to house many of those students through a combination of a new building and boundary changes, district officials say.

Half of all Boise School District buildings were built before 1960.

Growth in South and Southeast Boise is also a key factor in the district’s proposal to expand Timberline High’s capacity from about 1,150 students to about 1,400 with additional classroom space.

The proposed Syringa Valley development in South Boise could add 2,000 homes. Expanding Timberline would buy time to see how Syringa Valley develops before deciding if a new high school is needed. A high school today would cost around $60 million.

Q. What about professional technical education?

A. The school district wants to add classes to the Dehryl A. Dennis Professional Technical Center, 8201 W. Victory Road, to meet demand for electrical, heating and air conditioning and plumbing workers. The district is talking to the College of Western Idaho to allow Boise students to complete their first year of college professional-technical education in those areas while still in high school, Dennis said.

“Businesses we have talked to told us they have to go outside the Boise valley to find workers,” Dennis said.

Q. How will all this be paid for?

A. Trustees have not decided yet. The total cost of consultant DeJong Richter’s list of projects, including major capital improvements and other maintenance, is estimated at $217 million over 10 years. The cost of the major capital projects is estimated at $155.4 million.

The district is considering bonding $172 million and using $45 million it would get from the lottery and a plant-facilities tax levy over decade to cover the rest.

District officials say they can levy up to $172 million without increasing the $70 per $100,000 of taxable value that homeowners pay now for bonded debt. That doesn’t mean your tax bill would not increase, just that the levy rate wouldn’t. Taxes are based on the assessed value of your home, which can rise over time.

Trustees expect to meet Tuesday, Nov. 1, to adopt a final plan and again Monday, Nov. 14, to decide how to pay for it.

This story was updated on Sept.28 to reflect the construction date of the current building at Pierce Park Elementary.

Bill Roberts: 208-377-6408, @IDS_BillRoberts

Updating Boise school buildings

The Boise School District’s 10-year building plan includes these major capital projects, estimated to cost $155.4 million:

New construction

Cost in millions

Project

Pierce Park Elementary

$13.8

Rebuild

Whittier Elementary

$13.8

Rebuilt

Amity Elementary

$13.8

Rebuild

Elementary at Harris Ranch

$13.8

New school

Highlands Elementary

$9.7

Rebuild

Mountain View Elementary

$8.9

Rebuild

Valley View Elementary

$11.6

Rebuild

Eliminate cafeteria-gym-auditoriums at 7 schools

$8.5

Build a second structure

Renovations

Washington Elementary

$5.4

Infrastructure replacement

Additions

Professional Technical Center

$13.3

Add class space

Timberline High School

$7.4

Add class space

Renovations/additions

Boise High School

$12.5

Update gym/performing arts

Hillside Junior High

$5.6

New gym, cafeteria

Fairmont Junior High

$5.6

New gym, cafeteria

Collister Elementary

$7.4

Remodel gym, performing arts

Longfellow Elementary

$4.2

Remodel gym, performing arts

Source: DeJong Richter

Hear more about the plan

Boise School District will hold a public meeting outlining the proposed building program from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17, at the Capital High School cafeteria, 8055 W. Goddard Road.

What should be done at Whittier

Some readers have wondered why the overflow students from Whittier Elementary School, 301 N. 29th St., can’t go to Madison Elementary a few blocks away at 2215 Madison Ave. Madison, they say, was shuttered in 2004.

Not exactly. Madison closed as an elementary school, but it is now used for the district’s federally funded early childhood education classes for special-needs children.

Moreover, the school has only seven classrooms and would not be able to take all the students expected to be added to Whittier as it continues to grow, Superintendent Don Coberly said.

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