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Old school vs new school

District 91 asking support for bond for new high school

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - There's a phrase we often hear -- that something or someone is "old school". The dictionary says it's usually used approvingly referring to something that is old-fashioned or traditional.


When it comes to actual school buildings there's a debate about whether we should stick with the old schools or build new ones. Idaho Falls School District 91 officials are voting for the new school argument.

Idaho Falls High School was built in 1952.  Packed with more than 12-hundred students and over 100 teachers and staff there are complaints it's overcrowded.

Science labs are not large.  The cafeteria is tiny for a school of that population. Students eat lunch in the halls.  Teachers say their rooms are too small and not adequate.

"One of my biggest frustrations about the room is the outlet situation,
teacher Paula Trudell said. There are two. There's one right here and one at my desk in the back of the room. Walking up and down the aisles to help kids, you can image if there's 30 kids in here with backpacks, it's already crowded right now."

Skyine High School was completed in 1968 and is a little more modern, with space for students to collaborate, but teachers say it too lacks what's needed for modern education and needs renovations.

"There's an English teacher that I co-teach with and we have 60 kids and we don't have a space big enough where we can talk  to them at the same time and we need some more flexible spaces, teacher Chase Meyer said. Plus the WIFI systems and things like that, they just can't handle the load that we're putting on them and all that stuff needs to be updated and modernized."

The board of trustees has spent three years looking at the best ways to modernize and update our high schools, District 91 spokesperson Margaret Wimborne said.

After looking at all the options, rather than spend $40-million dollars to remodel 66 year old Idaho Falls High School the board decided on a bond proposal for a new high school and upgrades to the current ones.

That $110-million dollar bond failed last November.  The board came up with a new bond to be voted on next month.


The proposal includes

-  $55.8 million for a new Idaho Falls High School.
-  $28.4 million for major renovations to Skyline High School.
-  $2 million to convert the current Idaho Falls campus into a career, technical         education center. for a base bond of  $86. 2 million dollars.


Patrons can also vote on a separate measure for $13.3 million for amenities like a performing arts center at Skyline.

Some patrons still feel remodeling the old high school is sufficient.


"We've done the tours and we don't see why it can't happen, D 91 Taxpayers spokeperson Lisa Keller said. We just feel like they are asking more than is necessary with our taxpayer dollars."

School officials say there has been some confusion over plans for the old high school. It would not be converted into a high tech technology school -- rather a career technical education center that doesn't require as much infrastructure improvements .

"That includes things like certified nursing assistant, EMT, culinary arts, pharmacy tech,"  Wimborne said. 

They would plan for 300 students in the mornings and 300 hundred in the afternoon-- a reasonable number they say for that facility.

If the bond passes how will it impact taxpayers?  The district says the tax rate won't change.

"We currently collect $424  per year of taxable value per $100,000 of taxable value and that won't change."

The reason they won't need to increase the rate is because property values have increased an average of about 7.5 percent in the district offsetting a need for a rate increase. But property tax bills will go up for most  because of those  increased property values.

The brand new thunder Ridge High School is District 93 has many of the qualities District 91 would like to see in its new school.

 It has , a large cafeteria,  a modern gym with a running track, a state of the art auditorium, plenty of electrical outlets everywhere,  and impressive music rooms  and science labs.

 "Science rooms, science lab spaces, preparation spaces much larger, much more accommodating to teachers and how they need to instruct," Thunder Ridge principal Doug McLaren said.

McLaren says a new school improves the community and draws in more people.


"It's attractive to a lot of people and I'm still getting lots of open enrollment applications from students want to come here that live outside our boundary or outside our district or outside our city," McLaren said.

So, the question facing voters in District 91 is whether a new high school and improvements to current ones are worth it, or do they want to look at other options.  They'll have a chance to make their voices heard at the polls on August 28th.


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