Idaho Falls parents split over the idea of split sessions or year-round school

Parents in the Idaho Falls School District are split over the prospect of year-round school or split sessions if a record-breaking bond issue to build and upgrade schools fails Tuesday.

Just over 51% of about 1,000 parents recently surveyed by the district said they’d prefer year-round school if trustees have to “take drastic steps to address safety, security and overcrowding at high schools,” survey results shared by the district show.

Just over 48% said they’d prefer split sessions, where half the students attend classes in the morning and half attend in the afternoon to reduce the number of students in buildings at any given time.

Trustees are considering ways to address overcrowding issues if the district’s $250 million bond issue fails to meet the supermajority of votes it needs to pass Nov. 8, Idaho Falls Superintendent Jim Shank wrote in an Oct. 18 email to parents, which included a link to the survey.

The measure — which would fund construction of a new Idaho Falls High school, two new elementary schools and extensive upgrades to Skyline High School — is the largest general obligation bond to make it onto an Idaho ballot. It’s also the third time since 2017 that Idaho Falls has asked local property owners to bankroll major facilities upgrades. Both prior attempts failed.

The latest measure would address overpopulated schools, including Sunnyside Elementary, which the district says is at 145% capacity, and Idaho Falls High, which it says is at 141% capacity. Upgrades to Skyline High revolve around a range of safety concerns and other improvements, the district says.

But the price tag for improvements has rapidly increased over the years. Two newly proposed elementary schools and rising construction costs have more than doubled the estimated cost for upgrades since 2017.

The latest measure’s estimated cost to taxpayers: $100 per $100,000 of taxable property.

Local bond opposition group D91 Taxpayers has criticized the $250 million measure, and questioned its actual financial impact on patrons in light of rising interest rates, which are expected to increase again this year.

Local taxpayers who say they’re already strapped by inflation have also raised concerns over costs in the weeks leading up to the election.

D91 Taxpayers added the parent survey to its list of issues with the bond, casting the questionnaire as a last-minute scare tactic to rally votes.

“The district is campaigning, pure and simple, and that is illegal,” D91 Taxpayers spokeswoman Lisa Keller wrote in an Oct 18 email in response to the survey.

Some of that criticism showed up on the survey itself.

“It’s a scare tactic from a (sic) incompetent school board,” one respondent wrote when asked to share their “greatest concern” about the prospect of split sessions.

Still, others lauded the measure.

“We would be happy to hand out flyers and inform anyone that will listen,” one supporter wrote in the survey.

The survey also gauged parents’ primary concern over split sessions or year-round school. Nearly 28% and over 37% chose “disruption to family routines and traditions” as their greatest concern over split sessions and year-round school, respectively. Other key concerns ranged from “siblings being on a different schedule” to “disruptions of regular school calendar.”

Respondents also had a chance to write in their top concern if it wasn’t listed.

Click here for a complete look at the results.

Further reading: Idaho Falls’ bond issue is one of four requests from school districts for local funds heading into Tuesday’s election. Go here for more on the $266.1 million school election day, and watch for these and other results on our homepage on election night.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

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

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday