Frank Salazar brought his first- and fifth-grade daughters to the newly constructed Hillsdale Elementary School on Friday evening so they could drop off their supplies and meet their teachers.
“Looks pretty sweet,” he said of the brand-new building, which will welcome nearly 500 students when school opens on Monday. “My girls love it so far. They are excited to get started on Monday.”
Hillsdale isn’t the only new school opening in the Treasure Valley over the next school year. Five new facilities are debuting this fall as districts wrestle with aging buildings and growing numbers of students.
The total cost to the taxpayers for the latest round of schoolhouses? $111.3 million. Residents will cover the expense through their property taxes.
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Three elementaries, a middle school and a high school will be opening their doors in the West Ada, Vallivue, Melba and Notus districts.
The Boise School District is experiencing growth that could lead to the need for new schools down the road, but it has none opening this year.
And although West Ada has two new schools, neither is a high school, even though some parents say that’s a real need in the ever-growing district.
Here’s a look at this year’s new facilities.
WEST ADA SCHOOL DISTRICT
HILLSDALE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
5225 S. Stockenham Way, Meridian
Construction cost: $15 million
New mascot: Herons
More than a school: Families attending Hillsdale Elementary will get a school and a whole lot more. Hillsdale is part of a complex planned to include a Treasure Valley Family YMCA, a Meridian Library, a swimming pool and a Meridian city park.
Once the YMCA and the library are constructed, both will be used by Hillsdale students.
On-site preschool: Even before the YMCA breaks ground on the property near Eagle and Amity roads — expected this fall — the school will open with an academically oriented YMCA preschool and an after-school program that includes academics, physical activity and art. A few spaces are still available in each program, said David Duro, YMCA president and CEO: “It makes it fun for kids and parents can work.”
Project stalled: The project — named The Hill by the partners in the group – hit a bump about a year ago when the Meridian Library District bond measure for a new library failed and Western Ada Recreation District pulled its proposed bond measure for a pool from the ballot, because opinion polls showed people didn’t have enough information to vote to support the project.
Meridian Library District will come back to voters in November with a $12 million bond for a library at The Hill and one in the Chinden Boulevard-Black Cat Road area. Western Ada Recreation District has not made a decision about whether to seek a bond for a pool.
Room for more students: Hillsdale Elementary was built south of Interstate 84 off Eagle Road to ease overcrowding at Mary McPherson and Sienna elementary schools. The school is built for 650 student and will open with about 500.
Cost overrun: The projected cost for Hillsdale was originally $10 million. But it got more expensive when the district made it a two-story building to fit on the five acres it was given by a developer. West Ada School District is also fronting $1.2 million for road, streetlights and utilities for the new school. The YMCA and the library district say they will reimburse West Ada about half those costs when their projects get underway.
Special feature: The school has a combination staircase-bleachers between the first and second floors, so students can get to class upstairs and parents can sit and watch programs in an auditorium-cafeteria.
VICTORY MIDDLE SCHOOL
920 W Kodiak Drive, Meridian
Construction cost: $27 million
New mascot: Kodiaks
Relieve overcrowding: Victory Middle School is easing bulging classrooms at Lake Hazel Middle School, where 1,500 students have been squeezed into a school built for 1,000.
At its most crowded, Lake Hazel students had to position their trays vertically at lunch time to allow more students to sit at the tables.
School built quickly: Victory’s construction was a rush job by school building standards. West Ada did some preliminary work even before voters approved the bond measure in March 2015. District officials let bids soon after and the school was finished to open this fall.
Schools nearing capacity: West Ada’s rapid growth, adding 500 to 1,000 students a year over several years, means Victory will open about 80 percent full and Lake Hazel will start the year at just under 90 percent. Both schools are built to hold around 1,000 students.
See the school: Parents are invited to back-to-school night at 6 p.m. Sept. 13.
VALLIVUE SCHOOL DISTRICT
RIDGEVUE HIGH SCHOOL
18800 Madison Road, Nampa
Construction cost: $55 million
New Mascot: Warhawks
Making room for students: Vallivue High School, south of Interstate 84, has been handling about 400 more students that it was intended to hold. The new school, built for 2,000 students, will open with about 1,100.
See it for yourself: You can walk through Ridgevue High between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26. A ribbon-cutting is planned at 6 p.m. Following tours, the Warhawk Museum has planned a flyover and Ridgevue’s Warhawks will play their inaugural football game on their home turf against the Boise Braves. The stadium’s stands will hold up to 3,500 people.
Instant rivalry: Nobody is wondering about the chief rival for the Ridgevue Warhawks. It’s the Vallivue High Falcons.
Rising costs: District voters approved a $51 million bond in 2103 to construct Ridgevue north of I-84. But costs increased between the time the vote was approved and when building began, so the district went back to voters in 2015 for an additional $4 million. That permitted officials to build the planned professional/technical/agriculture center as part of the new campus.
Special feature: Like other schools, Ridgevue is installing polished concrete floors instead of vinyl, said Pat Charlton, district superintendent.
“You never have to to wax it,” he said. “It saves a lot of money.”
Melba School District
MELBA ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Carrie Rex Ave. and Sixth St.
Cost: $9.5 million
Replacing an old school: The new school is built for 650 students and will open with about 400. It will replace the old Melba Elementary School, located a few just steps away.
Adding a playground: The old elementary, built in stages in the 1950s and 1960s, will be torn down. In its place will be a playground for the new school.
Delayed opening: School officials hoped the school would be open when students returned to class last week. But builders hit lava rock as they were laying the foundation, which slowed construction. The school is expected to open in early to mid-October.
Special features: Melba Elementary will have eight tutoring rooms linked to classrooms. Four of those rooms will have windows that will allow the teacher to see what is happening inside. The tutoring rooms will eliminate students having to go into in the hallways to work with tutors, where there are often distractions, said Andy Grover, district superintendent. The kindergarten and first-grade rooms will have bathrooms so students don’t have to leave the classroom to go to the restroom.
Notus School District
NOTUS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
25257 Notus Road
Cost: $4.8 million
Third time’s the charm: Voters twice rejected a bond to construct a new school to replace the elementary constructed when Calvin Coolidge was president. Voters approved the bond in 2015. The school will hold 300; about 210 are expected when it opens this fall.
A sticking point: Much of the resistance to the school bonds came from people who did not want the old school torn down. In the end, voters agreed to the new school, and the old school will indeed be razed.
Worn out: Notus Elementary had plenty of problems. Some pipes had to be plugged with a hardened foam to keep sewage from backing up. Classrooms were small and crowded. Electrical outlets were too few for all the technology the school wanted.
Opening date: The new elementary school will open in January.
School has already started in some places. Here is the schedule for most others.
▪ Monday, Aug. 22: West Ada, Nampa, Kuna, Notus, Homedale
▪ Tuesday, Aug. 23: Parma
▪ Wednesday, Aug. 24: Boise
▪ Monday, Aug. 29: Vallivue
Safety: School openings means reduced speeds in school zones around buildings — typically 20 mph. Watch for signs and slow down. The city of Meridian reminded motorists to to be careful at and around school pickup and dropoff points.
See the new schools
Victory Middle School’s back-to-school night will be 6 p.m. Sept. 13
Ridgevue High School is offering walk-thrus, a ribbon cutting and the new football team’s first game on Friday, Aug. 26. Festivities will begin at 4 p.m.