TWIN FALLS • The Twin Falls School District needs two new elementary schools and a new middle school within four years, according to a recommendation by a facilities committee.
School board members heard a presentation during a Wednesday work session, but didn’t make any decisions.
In total, the proposed projects would cost $73.86 million.
A 32-member committee is recommending a bond should be taken to voters during the March 2014 election. But the school board hasn’t made a decision yet.
After the presentation, a few board members asked questions and made comments.
“It’s painfully obvious we’ll need to do something in the next five years,” trustee Paul McClintock said about facility needs.
A big part of student success in any school district is the facilities provided, school district superintendent Wiley Dobbs said.
The school district’s needs are real, committee member and school administrator Amy McBride said.
The committee considered many options to address them, she said, and decided on the most financially responsible solutions.
Committee members focused on what’s best for students, said Carl Voigt, director of operations for the school district.
“It was good to see that people really wanted to focus on educational needs,” he said.
Voigt told the Times-News on Tuesday that he anticipates the school board will make a decision on building projects in late September or early October.
Using city and county population projections, the committee based their recommendations on a 2 percent yearly enrollment increase for first through 12th grades.
They decided on a slightly higher growth rate for kindergarten — 2.25 percent.
Enrollment in the Twin Falls School District is growing rapidly.
The district gained about 400 more students last school year – about a 3.7 percent increase. And district officials are projecting a nearly 4 percent increase this fall.
Hummel Architects – the school district’s facilities consultant – did an assessment at each school to find out how the space is being used.
Schools in the Twin Falls School District range in age from Bickel Elementary (opened in 1938) to Canyon Ridge High (opened in 2009).
Two New Elementary Schools
One of the largest proposed projects is the construction of two new elementary schools, which would both open in 2016.
That’s the earliest possible completion date, assuming construction starts next year, Straubhar said.
Each elementary school would house as many as 650 students on 10-12 acre sites. Proposed locations haven’t been decided.
The total price tag: $30.8 million – or $15.4 million for each school.
There are currently seven elementary schools in the Twin Falls School District.
Assuming there’s a 2 percent enrollment increase each year, the school district would be 950 students over capacity in its current schools by 2016.
That translates into one-and-a-half schools, Straubhar said.
Committee members looked at the option of taking classroom space away from computer labs and special programs.
But even then, elementary schools would still be over capacity by 650 students by 2016.
Trustee Bernie Jansen said taking away classroom space from special programs would be a short-sighted decision and “a wreck.”
Throughout the process, the facilities committee looked at alternatives, Straubhar said.
For instance, they talked about constructing one elementary school, but postponing the other.
A New Middle School
Another major proposal in the long-range facilities plan is a new middle school. It would have a 1,000-student capacity and would sit on a 25- to 30-acre site.
It could cost about $30.8 million. The facilities committee recommends a 2017 opening.
Committee members talked about the option of adding onto Vera C. O’Leary and Robert Stuart middle schools instead, but decided against the “super school” idea.
The committee saw expanding both middle schools as a Band-Aid to the problem, McBride said.
That’s because the school district would probably need a new middle school further down the road, she said, and building costs are lower now.
By 2017, the current middle schools will be over capacity by 327 students.
High School Upgrades
Another proposed project is $7.56 million in upgrades to Twin Falls High School — including heating/air conditioning and a new roof. Work would be done in August 2017.
“Twin Falls (High) was a major discussion point all the way through the process,” Straubhar said.
Facility committee members felt the school needs upgrades, he said.
Canyon Ridge High School could receive a $5.5 million new classroom building that would accommodate 480 students.
Canyon Ridge’s capacity of 1,200 students will likely be exceeded by 2015, according to the facilities plan.
Twin Falls High has a higher capacity – 1,500 students – and likely won’t reach that mark until 2020.
Safety and Security Upgrades
The committee is also proposing $1.3 million in safety and security measures at each of the district’s 13 campuses.
It would cost $1.3 million — $100,000 for each of the school district’s 13 campuses.
If approved, upgrades would be made over three summers starting next year.
Impact to Taxpayers
The facilities committee has recommended bringing a bond to voters, but the school board didn’t take any action Wednesday.
Estimates in the facilities plan show a yearly tax increase of $75 for a $150,000 residence with a homeowner’s exemption.
There would be a $169 yearly increase for a $250,000 residence, while a $250,000 business would see a $250 per year increase.