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$4.8 million bond - divisive issue for North Gem School District

School Bond

BANCROFT, Idaho - The North Gem School District is asking for a $4.8 million bond to build a new school for the students at North Gem High School.

Superintendent Jamie Holyoak said the students need a newer, safer building than the one they are in which has been standing for more than 100 years to date.

"We need something that meets the current codes that is a little safer so that is why we are going for (the bond) in hopes that we can put students in a safer facility," Holyoak said.

Along with safety, the school houses 220 students grades kindergarten through grade 12, and has acted as the central hub in the quaint town for decades.

"There isn't a city. It's the school...and that is where we congregate," Holyoak said.

Naturally, Holyoak and the majority of the North Gem family agree it's time for an upgrade to preserve the school's identity and impact on the town.

This is the third time the bond has been on the ballot within the past six years. In order to pass, it needs a super majority vote of at least 66.7% and Holyoak said these past two elections the bond only collected 66.6% of the vote. 

That percentage difference comes down to only two votes.

But the roadblocks which has the town split on the issue has Holyoak stuck between a rock and a hard place, or in this case, between North Gem and Grace.

The superintendent has to wear two hats, often traveling back and forth between the North Gem and Grace school districts.

Right now the North Gem School District's socio-economic status doesn't weigh-in low enough to allow it to qualify for federal grants, and the state said it would pay 34% of the cost if the two districts consolidate. If North Gem decides to fly solo, the state will only pay three percent of the total cost.

That's good news for the landowners who don't live in the district who will end up paying more for that tax than everyone else who lives within the district's limits.

So, Holyoak's options are to consolidate and upset some of the people who live in Grace who do not want to pay to help build a school in North Gem, or build it with less state assistance and upset the landowners who will have to pay more.

"Everybody has to look at it through their own perspective and through their own lenses because it is disproportionate when it comes to how much everybody has to pay," Holyoak said.

Right now, his hands are tied and he's trying to decide which sacrifices need to be made, but appreciates the community's support for the school throughout the years, saying the community has helped the school thrive.

Although the issue has been divisive for the quaint community that has been known to stand together and support each other through the years, it all comes down to the May 20 election and what significant large difference only a minuscule number of votes will determine.

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