Boise School District faces more that $300 million in school building improvements even as projections indicate enrollment will continue to decline over the next decade.
The district is likely to lose 1,100 students by 2026 , according to a report on the district’s aging school buildings released Tuesday.
A key reason: “Between 2008 and 2013, you didn’t have babies,” said Tracy Richter, owner of DeJong Richter, an Ohio-based education planning business that is conducting its second detailed assessment of Boise district buildings in a decade. “You don’t have as many kids showing up.”
Moreover, outside of the Harris Ranch area in Southeast Boise and a proposed 2,000 home subdivision in South Boise, housing construction has leveled off in the district, which means a lot of people aren’t moving in with kids to put in school. Even if housing starts to pick up, it would take several years before the population affects the number of students in the district, Richter said.
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The district, which had about 27,000 students in 2000, was down to 25,600 for last school year and could end up at 24,417, based on the most likely enrollment scenario in Dejong Richter’s report. The most optimistic projection showed the district enrollment increasing by about 5,000 students to 29,670.
The public got a look at the report at Cynthia Mann Elementary School on Tuesday evening.
It’s not a good idea when they’re are eating lunch and a basketball falls in their soup because gym in going on.
Tracy Richter with DeJong Richter, on combining cafeterias, auditoriums and gyms into a single room in a school
Enrollment projections are part of a detailed look at the school district’s buildings and how well they aid in helping students learn,
The study, which cost the district $241,315, will be used to help the district determine what to do with its aging buildings. The last time the district undertook such a detailed study, the result was a $96 million bond in 2006 to replace and build new schools and refurbish others.
The study details needs for buildings, including air conditioning, window replacement and updated fire alarms. But the district can’t afford a $326 million repair and renovation bill, Richter said. So the district is going through a prioritization that includes building improvements, overall enrollment in schools and how buildings help advance the curriculum.
Only a handful of schools in the district hit the sweet spot for enrollment, building condition and how the building is used, DeJong said. All of those were built or renovated in the past decade: Lowell, Grace Jordan, Morley Nelson,Whitney and Roosevelt elementaries and South, East and West junior highs. All the other school buildings have needs, but that doesn’t mean they are no longer useful, Richter said.
One example, Whittier Elementary on North 29th Street, has about 150 more students than it was built to handle.
“It is completely over-utilized,” Richter said. “Now does that mean we close Whittier? Absolutely not.”
Instead, district officials said, it means the district may have to build a new school, and if that doesn’t hold everyone, it may have to change attendance boundaries, transferring students to nearby schools with some room, such as Lowell and Washington.
How you can be heard on Boise school buildings
Boise School District will hold a second community dialogue on what should be done with its old buildings at 6 p.m. Wed. Aug.31, at Whitney Elementary School, 1609 Owyhee St.
On Thursday the district will put a questionnaire on its website to gather more thoughts and ideas from residents.