New high school caught in land crunch
By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer
The Blaine County School District may build a new $19.6 million high
school on the existing Wood River High Schools sports fields if it cannot resolve
problems purchasing property from neighboring land owners.
Since January, the district has said it plans to build the new school on
15 acres of ranch land located on the northeast side of the existing Wood River High
Owned by real estate broker Stoney Burke and his partner, Fred Judd, the
ranch includes 1,540 acres of Quigley Gulch property, a small portion of which the school
district has eyed for development.
In an interview yesterday, Burke disclosed that he and his partner might
not sell any land to the school districtor they might sell from two to 15 acres.
When asked if that might force the district to build the new school on
existing sports fields, he said, "Thats possible."
But, he added, "I defer to (county school superintendent Jim) Lewis
Lewis said in an interview yesterday that building the school on existing
sports fields is "definitely one of the options" the district is considering.
The proposed new high school was the centerpiece of a $40 million school
facilities levy voters approved in May.
Lewis said that the district never had a contract on the 15 acres.
"We announced that several times during the levy," he said.
Lewis said the shape of the parcel potentially available may not be what
district officials had in mind initially. He declined to elaborate because of ongoing
While acknowledging that the district may not get the land it originally
wanted, Lewis said the district may build the new school on the sports fields for another
reasonbecause that would create an efficient campus.
"Its more and more evident that the new school needs to be
closer to the old school," he said.
Lewis explained that district planners had reconsidered having the new
school and the future multi-use facility separated by sports fields. Because students and
teachers would need to walk back and forth between facilities, the buildings would need to
be located closer together, he said.
Lewis said he did not yet know how the district would replace the lost
sports fields, but the district may try to purchase additional property for new ones on
either the north or south side of the high school campus.
The Blaine County Recreation District plans to develop a golf course on a
portion of the Quigley Gulch ranch land, and there are possible drainage issues the three
groups will need to resolve. Neither the school district nor Burke were willing to
elaborate, however, until negotiations were finished.
By locating the new school adjacent to the existing school, district
officials said in January, the new school could be constructed at a discount. Thats
because the new school could use the existing WRHS sports fields, which would require the
district to purchase only 15 acres, rather than the usual 21 acres needed for a new high
Under the plan, the existing high school would become a multi-use facility
shared by the district, the College of Southern Idaho and the Blaine County Recreation
Even with the current land negotiation problems, Lewis said, construction
of the new high school, which begins in the spring of 2002, is still "right on
schedule." He said the schools scheduled completion date is set for fall of