HEYBURN — Minidoka County school officials are eyeing Heyburn residential growth as the elementary school starts to bulge at the seams with students.
Ken Cox, superintendent at Minidoka County School District, said other elementary schools in the district are also at or approaching student capacity.
Generally, schools strive to have less than 24 students per class in grades K-2 and less than 30 in grades 3-5.
At Heyburn, first grades they are averaging 27 students in each class, 22 in second-grade classes, 23 in the third grades, 33 in fourth-grade classes and 29 in the fifth grades.
“They have no empty classrooms where they could split classes out into two,” Cox said. “It is tight.”
All the residential growth occurring in Heyburn means the school district has to start planning for that expansion.
“We had eight or nine students move in last week,” Heyburn principal Sanie Baker said.
The school is becoming so crowded that safety has become an issue because there isn’t always the required space between desks and tables for safe egress in the case of an emergency.
“The rooms were simply not built for 30 plus students,” Cox said.
The school’s combination cafeteria and gym is split in half by a curtain, which means lunches are completed in several shifts, while gym classes commence behind the curtain.
“It’s doable, but it’s noisy,” Baker said. “It would be so nice to have a whole gym and a whole cafeteria.”
The stage in the gym has turned into a storage area, and children are bussed to Minico High School for programs.
“Even with first-grade students and their parents, there is not enough room to have a program here,” Baker said
Although MHS and the two middle schools are not as tight, they struggle with issues that come with older buildings and the agriculture program at Minico must expand, which has also been discussed during recent town hall meetings.
The school district will hold another town hall meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. May 7 at Minico High School to review previous town hall meeting suggestions on how residents would like the district to handle the growth.
During the meeting, district officials hope to develop a wish list and have architects put price tags on the items over the summer.
Next fall, the district wants to share that cost information with district patrons.
“We are looking at a lot of growth here in Heyburn,” Heyburn city Tony Morley, Heyburn administrator, said in an email. “We have two developments that have achieved final plat approval and are just trying to iron out a couple of details before they can begin to dig dirt.”
Construction is expected to start in May.
Elk Meadows is a 96-unit multi-family housing project, with one 48-unit phase complete. Developers just received approval to begin the second phase with another 48 units.
Boulevard Development, north of 21st Street, has received approval to begin its first phase of a total of 326 multi-family housing units that include townhouses and single family residences with a commercial component to the development.
Other residential development still in the works, Morley said, will bring the total of new housing to more than 500 houses.
Morley said for planning purposes the city estimates 1.75 to 2.25 children per household.
“Some people say this is too high and some say this is too low but it gives you an idea what impact a few hundred housing units have on a community and school system,” Morley said.
Even figuring on the low end at 1.5 children per house, Cox said, that is at least another elementary school in Heyburn.
Other elementary schools reach limits
Cox said Acequia, like Heyburn, is at its maximum capacity.
Both Acequia and Heyburn opened at the same time in 2010.
Acequia averages 27 students in first, second and third grade classes, 31 in fourth grades and 28 in fifth grades.
Next year, Acequia Principal Heather Hepworth plans to use a support teacher and make one additional first grade classroom.
“We currently have one classroom not being used,” Hepworth said. “As of right now our special education teacher fills the room but only teaches a small group. If we use the intervention room across from the self-contained classroom I have to be very creative about where everyone is going to have a home.”
Rupert Elementary School is on the cusp of being too small, and it added four portable classrooms two years ago to ease the strain. Paul Elementary School, which has two intervention rooms that can be turned into classrooms.
The Total Learning Center, an elementary behavior school at the district’s service center does not have any spare room.
“If you don’t plan ahead,” Cox said, “Then you are always playing catch up.”
JEROME — Concerns about population growth in Idaho and the Magic Valley — and the potential for accompanying urban development and culture clashes — took center stage at a Thursday night candidate forum hosted by the Jerome County Farm Bureau.
District 25 legislative candidates and those seeking a seat on the Jerome County Board of Commissioners discussed a range of issues including health care coverage, water rights, and transparency in state government.
But a question posed to the legislative candidates summed up the underlying theme of the forum: With the growth of the urban part of the state, how do we maintain our rural voice and influence?
Among the legislative candidates, there was widespread agreement that the Magic Valley’s agricultural roots and culture should be protected. But candidates differed on how best to do that.
Some, such as Sen. Jim Patrick and House Seat A contender Laurie Lickley, advocated for increased dialogue between rural and urban legislators to improve urban Idahoans’ understanding of agricultural interests and come up with solutions.
Terry Edwards, Patrick’s challenger, took a blunter approach.
“This is our culture, not their culture,” Edwards said. “If they came here to change our culture, they can just go back.”
Glenneda Zuiderveld, a candidate for House Seat A, compared the wave of newcomers to the Magic Valley to those immigrating to the U.S. from other countries.
“Yes, we want them to come here, but this is our culture,” Zuiderveld said. “We need to start communicating and setting some guidelines.”
Two candidates, Rep. Clark Kauffman of House Seat B and House Seat A hopeful B. Roy Prescott, brought up the possibility of the Idaho legislature changing its model to have one senator from each county.
“If something’s going to happen, it has to happen now while we have representation,” Prescott said. “In another 10, 12, 15 years, no matter how much you would like that to happen, you won’t have the votes to make that happen in the state.”
Growth was a central theme in the commissioners’ portion of the forum as well, with nearly every candidate mentioning growth and protecting Jerome’s agricultural roots when asked about the biggest challenges facing Jerome County in the coming years.
District 3 incumbent Roger Morley described the county as a “good old girl” who “just needs a new dress.”
“I believe if we give away our agricultural roots, we really give away what we are,” Morley said. “We have to be very careful with all the new people coming that to make sure they understand that we will protect our culture.”
Businessman George Pangiotou, one of two challengers running for Morley’s seat, agreed that Idaho must stay a “great outdoor recreational state.” But he said he believes Jerome County needs better guidance for that growth, particularly when it comes to recreation and tourism.
“I think I can help a lot organizing the county, directing the county, organizing growth,” Panagiotou said. “I see these things and I want to help build it up.”
All candidates for the Jerome County Board of Commissioners and District 25 legislative seats were present at Thursday’s forum.
They are: Roger Morley, George Panagiotou and John Crozier for Commissioner District 3; Cathy Roemer and Ben Crouch for District 1; Sen. Jim Patrick and Terry Edwards for the District 25 Senate seat; Laurie Lickley, B. Roy Prescott and Glenneda Zuiderveld for District 25 House Seat A; Rep. Clark Kauffman and Lyle Johnstone for House Seat B.
BURLEY — Cassia County candidates answered questions at a forum Thursday evening on county growth, a regional airport and police issues.
Candidates for county commissioner in District 1 are Jeff Jarolimek, who owns a farm equipment manufacturing and repair company, Leonard Beck, a farmer, and Randy Harris, owner of Harris Energy.
Commissioner candidates in District 3 are Kent Searle, who is a farmer, dairyman and business owner and incumbent Tim Darrington, a rancher and farmer.
Darrington said the county is experiencing growing pains and said he is concerned about the county offering tax relief to new business and how the growth is impacting law enforcement and schools. Beck said growth goes hand-in-hand with educating the youth and a community committee should be established to study how fees and county processes.
Searle agreed that working with schools to encourage youth to stay in the area is important.
Jarolimek said growth has to be controlled and as a business owner, he is aware of how it makes it more difficult for businesses to find employees.
Harris said some of the new business incentives should be curbed and the money diverted to develop infrastructure in the county.
On the issue of the airport, Beck said if voters decide to fund a new airport and the new location has willing sellers, he would support it. Searle said he agrees with Beck and he would recommend procuring the new location first.
Jarolimek said he would support the airport depending on if it has a reasonable cost that would be spread between Minidoka County and Cassia County.
Harris said the current airport was not maintained well and he would take into consideration if the airport could be supported without federal funding.
Darrington said he would only support the new airport if voters approved it and it was a joint effort.
On the police contract, Searle said at one time he was a reserve police officer prior to the city-county law enforcement contract and he supports the contract but thinks the city should receive more information on the services they receive.
Jarolimek said the county seems to be underrepresented by the sheriff’s office and he would like to find a way for more patrol in the county.
Harris said he would take a hard look at the contract to see if it was practical to divide it into the sheriff’s office and a city police force.
Darrington said the county is currently in negotiation with the city to renew the contract and at some point, a decision will have to be made regarding what is good for both.
Treasurer candidates Cynthia Moyle, who has a family-owned business and has held offices with the Republican Party, and Laura Greener, who works at the treasurer’s office and has owned a small business, also appeared at the Burley High School forum.
TWIN FALLS — Gregg Middlekauff and Jeff Williams did more than run successful businesses in the Magic Valley; they also paid it forward through community service.
That, CEO Shawn Barigar said, is why they were named recipients of this year’s Lifetime Achievement awards by the Twin Falls Chamber of Commerce.
“I think both Gregg and Jeff certainly personify that in their activities personally and professionally,” he said.
Barigar presented the awards Thursday during the Chamber’s annual awards breakfast. Also honored was Jaime Tigue, who was named the 2017 Person of the Year after receiving several nominations.
Middlekauff owns Middlekauff Auto Group and is a former president of the Idaho Automobile Dealers Association. He also serves on the board of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Magic Valley and volunteered with Southern Idaho Learning Center. The Middlekauff Foundation supports projects and programs that work to improve the community.
“He is proud to be a member of this community and strives to show support for things that help this be ‘The Magic Valley,’” said Jack Jardine, who nominated Middlekauff for the award.
Williams took over as president and CEO of Glanbia Foods in 2005 and had been with the company since 1989. He’s credited with helping to build the company’s extensive growth in Idaho.
The company today produces 900 million pounds of cheese each year. Its Gooding plant alone produces more cheese annually than the entire island of Ireland where Glanbia is headquartered, Barigar said.
“One of my proudest moments as CEO of Glanbia was when we announced our intent to build our HQ and Cheese Innovation Center in old town Twin Falls,” Williams said in a statement.
Williams helped pay it forward in the Magic Valley when he spearheaded Glanbia’s annual golf tournament, Barigar said.
Tigue received the Person of the Year award for her work to connect two portions of the 7-mile Canyon Rim Trail in 2017. The Person of the Year award is usually given because of a specific project, Barigar said.
Tigue founded the Magic Valley Trails Enhancement Committee and helped raise $600,000 for the city to gain access to construct the final 1.6 miles of Canyon Rim Trail.
“Were it not for her vision, her passion, and her tenacity, this connecting section of the trail would still be on the drawing board,” Barigar said.