FILER — Before 2017 ends, Filer School District officials hope to decide if a new school or more classrooms are needed to keep up with enrollment growth.
The school district is working to create a 20-year facilities plan. Eventually, a bond measure could come to voters, who’d decide whether to pay for projects.
Many south-central Idaho school districts — even in small communities — are seeing growth in student numbers as the region’s population continues to expand and new businesses open.
About a decade ago, the bulk of Filer’s enrollment growth was happening at the elementary school level.
“We pretty much knew we’d be building another elementary or something of that nature,” Superintendent John Graham said Monday.
The district ended up building Filer Intermediate School, which serves fourth through sixth graders.
But it isn’t as clear cut this time around. There’s still growth at the elementary school level, but the largest groups of students are starting to enter high school.
“Are we better off with a new building?” Graham said. “Are we better adding on? What are our choices?”
Over the last decade, Filer has gained 300 students — an average increase of 3 percent each year. The total student headcount hovers around 1,660.
“That growth continues,” Graham said.
Last fall, the Filer School District reconvened a long-range facility planning committee for the first time in nearly a decade. It makes recommendations to the school board, which makes final decisions.
The school district put out a request for qualifications for architectural firms this winter to help assess building needs and create a facilities plan.
“What we were really looking for is some who understood what our needs were and had some ideas,” Graham said.
After conducting interviews and giving building tours, the school board opted in March to select Boise-based Pivot North Architecture. And it hopes to make a decision in July about hiring a construction manager/general contractor.
The school district will incur architectural costs after a future bond is passed, Graham said, and the cost of developing a facilities master plan will come from the district’s existing plant facilities levy.
Clint Sievers, who was previously with Hummel Architects, founded Pivot last summer with a couple of colleagues. The 1997 Twin Falls High alumnus has been involved with major past projects in the Magic Valley.
That includes as lead designer for two new elementary schools in the Twin Falls School District — Rock Creek and Pillar Falls — which opened in August 2016, and as the project lead for building Canyon Ridge High School, which opened in 2009.
He was also the lead designer for the new Twin Falls City Hall project, which is still in the works.
As for the Filer School District, “they have some facility needs and they’re really seeing a master plan, more of a long-term road map, to guide them for the next 10 to 20 years,” Sievers said.
It’s smart to create a long-term plan, he said, because it’s proactive instead of simply being reactive as the number of students grows.
“We don’t want to just meet our immediate needs,” Graham said.
Pivot has two phases of work: first, creating a master plan and second, being the architect for any school building or renovation projects approved by voters.
This summer, the company is working on an analysis of existing school facilities, and is collecting data about demographics and enrollment numbers.
The school district’s facilities committee — which has about 20 to 30 participants, including community members — is slated to reconvene in September and will hear from Pivot with an update.
Then, a series of community meetings will be scheduled. “We really want to get a plan with community input, big time,” Graham said.
By November, there “should be a pretty good direction for the near-term priorities” for the next two or three years, Sievers said.
Across the Magic Valley, several other school districts have opened new schools or added classroom wings within the last few years.
And a few projects are still underway. South Hills Middle School in Twin Falls and John V. Evans Elementary School in Burley open in August, and Kimberly is constructing a new elementary school slated to open in June 2018.