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For the week of Jan. 19 through Jan. 25, 2000

Panel proposes new high school for valley

CSI extension, rec district facilities and tech academy in the works

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 Committee—directed by a Coeur d’Alene-based consulting firm, The Matrix Group—has 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 area’s current population growth.

With about 45 people in attendance at the county school district headquarters in Hailey, the committee’s 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 academy.

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 graduates.

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 night’s 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 smaller projects.

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 night’s meeting that the committee’s 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 get feedback.

"All the needs for the next 10 years is what we’re looking at," Lewis said. "I’m not voting here. I’m trying to find out what [the community] wants, and then I won’t leave a stone unturned until we accomplish that."


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