Panel proposes new high school for valley
CSI extension, rec district facilities and tech academy in the works
By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer
An ad hoc panel of educators, parents and business leaders voted
unanimously Monday night to move forward on a plan that would bring a new $19 million high
school to the Wood River Valley.
The Strategic Vision Facility Committeedirected by a Coeur
dAlene-based consulting firm, The Matrix Grouphas been meeting regularly for
several months to brainstorm ideas for improving district facilities. Educators say
present facilities will soon be bursting at the seams given the areas current
With about 45 people in attendance at the county school district
headquarters in Hailey, the committees work culminated Monday night with a $40
million facilities master plan aimed at turning the current Wood River High School into a
multi-use facility shared by the school district, the Blaine County Recreation District
and the College of Southern Idaho.
The Matrix Group co-owner Dave Teater called the idea
"synergistic" because it would allow the three organizations to share classroom
space, sports facilities, parking space and a multi-million dollar auditorium.
That synergism would allow the proposed new high school, which would be
located northeast of the current high school, to be built at a discount because it would
not need a gymnasium and could be built on 15 acres instead of the 21 acres traditionally
needed for a campus.
The new high school would retain use of the existing sports fields and
about one-third of the old building, which the district would turn into a technical
The academy would offer students real-world experience in construction,
finance, information technology, health sciences and other fields.
The College of Southern Idaho extension would offer classes to high
school students as well as classes leading to an associate degree for high school
Additionally, planners expect the college to add to the old high school
a new multi-million dollar auditorium, which would be shared with the new high school.
The Blaine County Recreation District would operate a locker room, a
gym and a swimming pool in the facility.
Committee members said they like the idea because it would cost only $2
million more than a proposed remodeling of the current high school, yet offers
significantly more in return.
Other projects proposed at Monday nights meeting include a new
$1.9 million bus barn, a $5.5 million Carey School renovation, a new $8.1 million
elementary school, a $2.7 million Wood River Middle School expansion and several other
Funding for the projects would come from a proposed plant facility
levy, which would tax local residents for a period of one to 10 years.
The levy requires different levels of voter approval depending on the
total indebtedness of the district and the amount of the levy.
The committee is considering the plant facility levy because the use of
funds is very flexible, the voter approval level is often less than two-thirds and little
or no interest would be incurred.
The Blaine County Superintendent, Jim Lewis, emphasized throughout
Monday nights meeting that the committees purpose is to find out what the
community wants before the school district asks taxpayers for money.
To that end, the committee has scheduled a "town hall"
meeting for Jan. 31 at the Wood River Middle School to present plans to the public and to
"All the needs for the next 10 years is what were looking
at," Lewis said. "Im not voting here. Im trying to find out what
[the community] wants, and then I wont leave a stone unturned until we accomplish