Friday, December 14, 2012

School District considers new classrooms

Planning under way for expansion at middle school

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County School District officials say overcrowding at Wood River Middle School can be alleviated by building a new addition with eight new classrooms. Students are shown here during a class break last spring. Principal Fritz Peters has said congestion in the hallways limits the school’s ability to “keep the students safe.” Photo by Willy Cook

The Blaine County School District is moving forward with a plan to build an addition with eight new classrooms at Wood River Middle School and to renovate an unused space at Hailey Elementary School to build three new classrooms there.

The plans, developed over the last several months, are still subject to a series of approvals by the district board of trustees. At a Tuesday school board meeting, district Business Manager Mike Chatterton explained a proposed schedule while middle school Principal Fritz Peters and Hailey Elementary principal Tom Bailey explained the needs for more classrooms.

At the middle school, some teachers, referred to as “traveling teachers,” do not have permanent classrooms and shuttle their books and teaching materials around on carts. At Hailey Elementary, some classes are taught in small spaces originally used as offices.

Chatterton said he will seek school board approval in January to publish a request for proposals to hire design-build teams for both projects. He said he plans to ask the board to approve the teams in February. He’ll seek board approval in April on a contract for the Hailey elementary renovation and in May for a contract for the middle school addition.

According to a proposed schedule, the Hailey elementary renovation would be finished by the start of the next school year, while the middle school addition would be finished by the start of the school year in 2014.


Middle school addition

The middle school addition, which would be built on the east side of the existing building, is estimated to cost about $1.58 million. Funding is available through a 10-year $59.8 million plant facilities levy approved by Blaine County voters in 2009.

Peters explained that the school is at student capacity now, but that additional space is also needed because of several new programs, such as world languages.

“We’re oversize right now in terms of the programs we have,” he said. “One of the things is just getting back to the idea that each teacher has their own room because right now we do have a lot of traveling teachers.”

The new addition would also allow expansion of the school gymnasium and cafeteria and would help alleviate what Peters described as “congestion in the hallways.”

“It just really limits our ability to keep students safe,” he said.

School Board Chair Steve Guthrie acknowledged that the new programs being implemented at the middle school “require additional infrastructure.”


Hailey elementary renovation

The three new classrooms at Hailey elementary would be built in the basement area on the northern part of the school. The space was previously used for maintenance and storage but is now available with completion of the new district maintenance and storage facility on Aviation Drive in south Hailey.

“I can’t see a better use for that space,” Guthrie said.

Bailey said the space was used for classrooms even before maintenance took it over.

“We don’t have any empty classrooms here—they’re all being used,” he said. “Basically we’re full and we’re trying to take some space back.”

Currently, English as a second language classes are taught in portable classrooms, and Bailey said “we’d like to bring them back into the building.”

He said the school also needs a larger classroom for its special education program and for other classes now being taught in spaces that were originally offices.

Funding for the renovation was not allocated in the 2009 plant facilities levy, so district officials plan to take the money from another account. A precise estimate on the renovation was not available, but Chatterton said there’s about a $750,000 “residual balance” from an older, now retired bond that could be used to pay for the project.

Terry Smith:


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