TWIN FALLS — A decade after opening its doors, Xavier Charter School is running out of space.
Now, a school committee is considering how to accommodate growth in student numbers and add more classrooms.
The current building — which houses 708 kindergarten through 12th graders — is overcrowded. There’s a huge waiting list of 287 children. There isn’t enough classroom space and the building wasn’t designed to accommodate specialty programs such as art and band.
“We’re very much packed into this space,” said Brian Loosli, a lead teacher at Xavier and chairman of the building committee.
Xavier, a free public charter school in Twin Falls, opened in 2007. It’s known for its rigorous academics and high test scores. It uses a classical model of education and emphasizes music, theater, dance and visual arts.
Xavier is waiting on its five-member committee — which includes school employees and a former board member — to come back with building recommendations. And it’s seeking to hire either a part or full-time fundraising development director by January or February to lead a capital campaign for the project.
Unlike traditional public school districts, Idaho charter schools aren’t allowed to bring ballot measures to voters to help pay for operating or building expenses.
Xavier’s building committee is thinking about school facility needs for the next 20 years. To address the most immediate issues, it’s considering an expansion of its existing building — most likely, into the south lawn off the high school wing.
It could include more general education classrooms, as well as specialized spaces for art, band and science classes.
It’s very early in the process of planning for a building expansion, Loosli said. The building committee formed in the spring and has met three or four times.
There isn’t a timeline in place for when a recommendation could come to the school board or when construction would begin, Loosli said. “It’s a years-long process.”
There aren’t any blueprints for a building project, either. The building committee has been in touch with a couple of architectural firms, but the school doesn’t have a contract with a firm yet.
Once a recommendation comes to the school board, it will likely be to contract with an architect to get blueprints drawn, Loosli said. “That would give us something to kind of focus on with the capital campaign we’re trying to put together.”
In the meantime, Xavier’s school board will decide in February whether to add four more portable classrooms to campus, school administrator Gary Moon said.
Earlier this year, Xavier bought 2.5 acres of undeveloped land north of its campus. But it doesn’t have any plans to use it yet.
“We’re holding that,” Moon said, since construction activity is continuing to boom in northwest Twin Falls. “We wanted to have that option.”
Buying land and planning for the future is a huge step for Xavier. In its early years, the school faced frequent administrative turnover and major financial problems.
In 2012, the school received a notice of defect from the Idaho Public Charter School Commission for “failure to demonstrate financial soundness.” The school nearly closed after struggling with high rent costs.
But things turned around. The school reached an agreement in February 2013 with its landlord, cutting rent payments nearly in half, and keeping the doors open. And in April 2015, the school’s board finalized a deal to buy its building for $6.5 million.
Now, school officials want to make sure there’s enough space for students for years to come.