JEROME — There’s a chance Jerome residents may see a new school in town, but probably not for at least five years.
Nearly 4,000 students are enrolled in the Jerome School District. In recent years, it has gained about 100 students each year.
Like some other Magic Valley communities, Jerome is seeing an influx of students as the city’s population grows and it’s looking for ways to accommodate them.
“Right now, our elementary schools are pretty much full, so if we do have more growth, that’s just something we’re going to have to be looking at,” Superintendent Dale Layne said Tuesday.
Jerome’s school board is receiving monthly updates about where new houses are being built and possibilities of where the school district could buy land for a future school site.
But Jerome school officials haven’t determined yet whether they’d need to open a new elementary, middle or high school.
Jerome currently has three elementary schools: Horizon (kindergarten to third grades), Jefferson (kindergarten to third grades) and Summit Elementary School (fourth and fifth grades). The newest is Summit, which opened in 2008.
Across the Magic Valley, other communities have already opened new schools to keep up with growth — or are in the middle of projects.
The Twin Falls School District opened two new elementary schools in 2016 and South Hills Middle School opens in August. A new Burley elementary school opens in August and a new Kimberly elementary school is slated to open in 2018.
Layne has visited with Jerome city officials and seen maps of where residential subdivisions have been plated.
“We’re trying to figure out where the growth might be,” he said.
With residential growth, “I would expect anything off Tiger Drive to continue developing,” Jerome city administrator Mike Williams said, which is the east part of Jerome. That extends from north of the city to Nez Perce Avenue.
Five subdivisions have been plated within the Jerome city limits, Williams said, but construction hasn’t started yet.
Most are in east Jerome, but some are in the north part of the city.
Another subdivision is in the final platting stages and should be approved within the next couple of months.
Layne said he has also talked with contractor Starr Corp. about how many acres of land the district would need for a new school.
And he has looked into what city services, such as utilities and roads, would be available in different areas.
Within the city limits, the district is “somewhat limited” with the number of available lots that would be suitable for a school, Layne said.
Outside the city limits, there would be added costs, such as for a septic system and “water is a real issue,” he said, especially with a requirement for fire sprinklers inside a new school building.
Currently, school officials are trying to look south of Jerome for land since all of the current schools are on the north side, Layne said.
Another topic of conversation: whether the school district could use voter-supported plant facilities levy money to buy land for a school site.
Ideally, a new school should be a “neighborhood school” where many children could walk to class, Layne said.
While Jerome school officials are looking to the future, there’s a more immediate need: planning for next school year.
“I’m guessing we’re going to grow between 50 and 100 (students) again this year,” Layne said.
The school district used to see about 250 students per grade level. But now, numbers typically hover in the 300s. And that means the district is left to figure out how to accommodate those extra students.
Williams said he has talked with Layne about the potential for a new school. “It will be interesting to see what they decide.”