Education

Treasure Valley schools that are ‘busting at the seams’ ask taxpayers for help

Replacing Mountain View Elementary

Sixty-year-old Mountain View Elementary is nearly worn out. If voters approve a Boise School District bond in March, the school would be replaced.
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Sixty-year-old Mountain View Elementary is nearly worn out. If voters approve a Boise School District bond in March, the school would be replaced.

Two new elementary schools and an expanded high school are among the first construction projects that would be undertaken by the Boise School District if voters approve a $172.5 million bond on March 14.

The district already has applied with Boise’s planning department for construction of a new Whittier Elementary School on North 29th Street to replace the overcrowded existing school, and for a 30,000-square-foot expansion of Timberline High School at 701 E. Boise Ave.

Other projects expected to come in the first wave of school construction:

▪  Replacement of Southwest Boise’s Amity Elementary School, which is plagued by a leaky earthen roof from the 1970s.

▪  Expansion of the district’s professional-technical center off Victory Road.

▪  Renovation of the old Boise High School gym built in the 1930s.

The estimated completion date for all of those projects is fall 2018.

Boise’s bond is part of a $217 million construction and maintenance plan, which also includes $45 million from the district’s ongoing maintenance levy to carry the district until 2026. The plan features major construction, expansion and remodeling for 22 schools, and maintenance and other projects for 26 others.

The Kuna School District, West Ada School District and Vallivue School District also are going to voters in March for a total of $395 million in school construction bonds or levies to pay for maintenance and operations.

Is Boise jumping the gun?

Boise might seem to be getting ahead of itself by doing preliminary work and filing planning paperwork for projects voters have yet to approve. But starting the paperwork and getting city approvals out of the way lets administrators move quickly if the bond passes, said Coby Dennis, deputy superintendent.

We can’t just assume our school parents will show up and vote.

Sue Lovelace, co-chair of the Boise bond campaign, which could enlist 1,000 voluteers by election day

Boise’s strategy isn’t uncommon. Linda Clark, former West Ada School District superintendent, did much the same thing, including some preliminary site improvements for Victory Middle School, before voters OK’d a $96 million bond in 2015. The goal was to get Victory open as soon as possible and relieve overcrowding at Lake Hazel Middle School.

If Boise voters agree on March 14, said Dennis, “We can immediately start breaking ground.”

Why were some schools chosen first?

Boise concentrated on “safety and growth” in determining what projects to do first, Dennis said.

Amity, for instance, has a 37-year-old roof made of dirt as part of a school designed to be an energy saver in the dawning days of the environmental movement. The roof is nearly impossible to fix and drips in the rain, requiring custodians to keep buckets in hallways and even above the school’s false ceiling.

Whitter Elementary, built in 1949 for about 300 students, has nearly 600 students today, half of them packed into portable buildings. The new school would make room for all those students, plus another 50 as Boise’s West End grows in response to city amenities at the nearby Boise River whitewater play area and Esther Simplot Park.

“We’re busting at the seams,” Fernanda Brendefur, Whittier’s principal, told the Statesman last fall.

6 Number of aging elementary schools Boise wants to replace

The 30,000-square-foot extension at Timberline High School would help accommodate continued development at Harris Ranch at the far eastern edge of Boise. The project is meant to add science labs and an art area, and prepare the school to grow to 1,400 students from its current 1,100. Timberline was built and opened as Les Bois Junior High in 1993 and it was never equipped with high school labs for classes such as chemistry, Dennis said.

A facilities planner hired by Boise’s district says the region will likely need a new high school in a few years if development south of Boise takes off. The Timberline expansion buys the district some time before needing to build, which could cost up to $60 million for a new school. The district has property at the 2,000-home Syringa Valley development south of Interstate 84 where such a school could go when it is needed.

Harris Ranch elementary?

School officials did not include a new elementary school in Harris Ranch in the first wave of construction financed by the bond, although it is on the list of projects to do. Such a school is planned to relieve overcrowding at nearby Riverside and Adams elementaries, but district officials say construction will wait until infrastructure is in place for the property east of the Boise Fire Station 15.

Volunteers back the bond

An army of volunteers is working to support bond passage. Up to 1,000 people could be involved by the time voters go to the polls in March, said Sue Lovelace, co-chair of the bond committee, which is separate from the Boise School District.

Boise has a number of “cafegymatoriums,” a multipurpose room that serves as a lunchroom, performance center and gym. The district considers those inefficient and many would be replaced as part of the proposed bond measure.

Volunteers are running phone banks three nights a week and Saturdays. The campaign has sent one mailing to people they believe are predisposed to vote for school bonds.

Their message is simple: “The way we look at it, we are investing in our community,” said Pam Solon, a volunteer who has lobbied for support for the bond from businesses in the district. Bond supporters have backing from the Boise City Council, Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, Boise Regional Realtors and the Idaho Associated General Contractors.

The March vote is the second time in a decade that the district has gone to voters with a large bond measure. In 2006, a similar bond paid to rebuild three junior high schools, construct two elementary schools and improve other schools throughout the district. Voters approved the 2006 bond with 70 percent of the vote; 67 percent was needed for passage.

There is no known organized opposition to the March bond measure. Lovelace and Solon say they have encountered no pushback talking to voters.

“We work every single day ... to make sure people understand the need,” Lovelace said.

Early voting begins Feb. 27

Ada County

▪  Ada County Elections office, 400 N. Benjamin Lane Suite 100, Boise: Feb. 27-March 10, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday voting March 4, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

▪  Meridian City Hall, 33 E. Broadway Ave., Meridian: Feb. 27-March 10, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

▪  Boise City Hall, 150 N. Capitol Blvd., Boise: Feb. 27-March 10, Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

▪  Ada County Mobile Voting Unit: Check the Ada County elections website beginning Feb. 27 for the schedule.

Canyon County

▪  Elections office, Feb. 27-March 10, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 1102 E. Chicago St., Caldwell.

Boise School District bond facts

Amount: $172.5 million

Length: 20 years

Expected interest rate: 2.96 percent

Total interest payments: $70,723,500

Tax rate: $70, unchanged from existing rate to pay for bonded debt, in part because the 1996 bond that built Shadow Hills and Trail Wind elementary schools and a supplemental levy used to keep class sizes from growing during the education cuts in the recession are expiring.

Boise bond’s projects

New construction

Pierce Park Elementary rebuild: $13.8 million

Whittier Elementary rebuild: $13.8 million

Amity Elementary rebuild: $13.8 million

Harris Ranch, new elementary school: $13.8 million

Highlands Elementary rebuild: $9.7 million

Mountain View Elementary rebuild: $8.8 million

Valley View Elementary rebuild: $11.6 million

Eliminate “cafegymatoriums” at seven schools: $8.5 million

Renovations/additions

Washington Elementary infrastructure: $5.4 million

Professional Technical Center, add class space: $13.4 million

Timberline High School, add class space: $12.8 million

Boise High School, update gym/performing arts space: $17.9 million

Hillside Junior High, new gym, cafeteria, class space: $7.8 million

Fairmont Junior High, new gym, cafeteria, class space: $7.8 million

Collister Elementary, remodel P.E., performing arts space: $7.4million

Longfellow Elementary, remodel P.E., performing arts space: $5.9 million

Source: Boise School District; costs are estimates

Kuna School District

▪  Proposal: $40 million bond, plus a $5 million supplemental levy over two years. Bond requires 67 percent for passage; levy requires simple majority.

▪  Property taxes: $500 per $100,000 of taxable value, no change in current tax rate.

▪  Expected annual interest rate on bond: 3.41 percent per year .

▪  Interest paid on bond: $9.4 million from property taxes; $8 million from a state bond subsidy fund.

What the district will do with the money:

▪  Build the first portion of a new high school to reduce overcrowding at Kuna High. $25 million.

▪  Convert Teed Elementary to a middle school; expand Kuna Middle School, which now has grades seven and eight, to include sixth grade. $6 million.

▪  Four new classrooms at Silver Trail and Reed elementary schools, other building updates. $5 million.

▪  Other maintenance. $6 million

▪  Supplemental levy to purchase textbooks, especially in history and math; technology improvements.

West Ada School District

The levy request is for $16 million a year for facilities for 10 years; 60 percent voter approval is required.

Background: The levy is $4 million a year less than West Ada sought in a maintenance levy a decade ago. The current levy is expiring.

Tax rate: It would drop from $118.84 per $100,000 of taxable property value to $94.30.

What would it do: It would be used for maintenance and relatively small construction projects. Those under consideration are gyms at Spalding STEM Academy and Pioneer Elementary; artificial turf replacement at Rocky Mountain High School; and a remodel at Meridian Middle School.

Vallivue School District

The district, which lies in rural Caldwell and Nampa, seeks a $2 million-a-year maintenance levy for 10 years. A two-thirds vote is required for passage.

The levy is double the previous maintenance levy amount, but the district’s overall tax rate of $582 per $100,000 of taxable value, which includes more than the maintenance levy, will not change because of increases in the district’s overall property value.

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