TWIN FALLS – The Twin Falls School District is refinancing a portion of a bond, with more than $5 million in expected interest savings.

School trustees voted Monday night to adopt a resolution authorizing the refinance. Trustees Bryan Matsuoka and Paul McClintock were absent.

It means the Twin Falls School District will pay off a portion of a 2014 bond “much more rapidly,” said Eric Heringer, a managing director for Piper Jaffray. Instead of reaching maturity in 2038, it will be paid off in four or five years.

Voters approved a nearly $74 million bond in 2014 to build three new schools. Rock Creek and Pillar Falls elementary schools both opened in August 2016, and South Hills Middle School opened in August 2017.

During their meeting, trustees also:

  • Heard information about the selection process for student transportation.

Western States Bus Services has provided busing for the school district for more than 20 years.

The district’s latest contract with the company is slated to end later this year.

Since the terms of the five-year contract say it can be extended for five years, the current contract has lasted 10 years and now the school district is required to go out to bid, Superintendent Brady Dickinson said.

Six companies have shown interest so far in the contract, he said. A school district transportation selection committee will be formed to make a recommendation based on a point system.

A recommendation will come to the school board in March for action. The vendor will begin on the job July 1.

In 2015, the Twin Falls school board sent a letter to Western States Bus Services with a list of grievances: late routes, lack of communication with parents and drivers not dealing with problems on their buses. The district hinted it would drop its contract with the bus company unless the problems were fixed.

In April 2015, Mid-Columbia Bus Co. — the parent company for Western States Bus Services — was sold to Landmark Student Transportation. By fall 2015, operations were back on track, school officials said that year.

  • Heard concerns from the Twin Falls Education Association about upcoming bills in the state legislature, including school vouchers.

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Co-president Peggy Hoy said she’d normally bring up topics with the school board during their normal breakfast meetings, but “legislation is coming up fast and furious.”

The Idaho Education Association has concerns about a few bills expected to be introduced this week or next week, she said.

One of those proposals involves collective bargaining. The other is two ideas floating around about school vouchers, Hoy said, but “the one that’s probably going to come forward first is an education savings account.”

Each individual would be able to take up to $6,000 to put toward a private school for a child, Hoy said. Donors could put money toward the savings account, she said, and get a 50 percent tax write-off.

It would take money away from public schools, Hoy said, adding she’s very concerned.

She said she has spent a lot of time visiting with a representative from the Magic Valley about the topic and she encouraged the school board to express concerns.

Hoy said the representative thinks having 100 children, for example, exit the Twin Falls School District to go to a private school would be a good thing because there would be smaller class sizes. But he fails to realize funding is based on how many students are in schools, she said.

  • Recognized employees of the month: fifth-grade teacher Shannon Youngman and paraeducator Marcella Yergensen from Oregon Trail Elementary School, and third-grade teacher Alyssa Lekkerkerk and special education paraeducator Dee Winn from Pillar Falls Elementary School.
  • Heard a presentation about recommendations for quarterly policy revisions, but didn’t take action.
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