Idaho Falls mulls future upgrades after second failed bond issue

IDAHO FALLS — After a second failed attempt in a year to pass a bond issue, the Idaho Falls School District is again reconsidering ways to upgrade its schools.

The school board met Wednesday to discuss possible paths forward and to address why its $99.5 million request to rebuild Idaho Falls High School and remodel Skyline High School failed in August.

“I think we did it right,” said trustee David Lent, who blamed the failed measure on organized opposition and Idaho’s two-thirds supermajority requirement for a bond issue to pass.

Lent said the district would need support “in some fashion” from local opposition group D91 Taxpayers to get a future measure approved by voters.

The district’s $99.5 million request followed trustees’ months-long effort to whittle its previously failed request from $110 million in upgrades to below $100 million.

Board chairwoman Deidre Warden solicited feedback from Lent and other trustees regarding next steps in upgrading the district’s aging infrastructure.

Taking more time to identify the most pressing needs and to better communicate them to patrons emerged as a theme.

Like Lent, trustee Larry Wilson cautioned against “jumping into the next election” with a revised measure. Still, Wilson said, “we’ve got to do something” to avoid “kicking the can down the road.”

Complicating a future measure to upgrade the high schools is growth among elementary students in the southern end of the district. Trustees discussed the prospect of both boundary changes and building a new elementary school, which Warden estimated costing between $13 million and $14 million.

Idaho Falls Superintendent George Boland told trustees that the district already purchased architectural drafts for an elementary school.

Trustees are still unclear how boundary changes or a measure for a new elementary school would affect another request to upgrade the high schools. Boland suggested hiring Ohio-based consulting firm Cooperative Strategies, which, according to its website, assists “local educational agencies in providing quality facilities for America’s students.”

“I like the idea of engaging with a company to make sure that an accurate message gets out there,” Wilson said.

It’s still unclear when trustees could float another measure for future upgrades. Boland pointed to November 2019 as a possible timeframe.

“I think everybody’s a little tired,” Warden said.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

Devin was formerly a senior reporter and editor for Idaho Education News and now works for INL in communications.

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