Pocatello trustees will wait on clarity from legislators before deciding on bond

Updated at 11:50 a.m. with comments from a press release.

With a major facilities funding bill in flux at the Legislature, Pocatello/Chubbuck school trustees postponed a decision on whether to put a bond on May’s ballot at a regular board meeting Tuesday. 

“Early reports indicate the promise of this bill could help reduce a bond request or potentially eliminate the need to bond altogether,” Board Chair Deanna Judy said.

Trustees have spent months considering whether to run another bond to pay for a rebuild and improvements at Highland High — a project that would cost about $33 million, on top of insurance monies (which will likely come in at around $20 million). 

Douglas Howell, Pocatello/Chubbuck School District’s superintendent.

Last week, parents and patrons urged trustees to make a decision soon. But Tuesday, Superintendent Douglas Howell advised trustees to hold off on a decision “until we have something more concrete” from legislators. 

“For now, I think your patience would be warranted,” he said. “In a perfect scenario, we would have enough money through this school modernization bill that we could get our Highland project done (without going to voters).”

Under House Bill 521, the state would secure a 10-year bond worth $1 billion and divvy up the proceeds among school districts (according to average daily attendance). Districts could take their share all at once, or in increments. The specific amounts each district would get have not yet been determined.

Trustees have until March 22, when ballot language is due, to decide if they want to run a bond in the May election. Legislators have indicated they’d like to end the session before the end of March, Howell said. 

“We appreciate the Board’s painstaking efforts and thoughtful approach to rebuilding Highland,” Howell said in a press release. “We cannot overemphasize the resilience and strength of the Highland High School community in overcoming adversity and moving forward towards a brighter future.”

He seemed optimistic about the proposed facilities legislation, and said the district could be in a “really, really good place when all this comes to fruition.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board also approved the formation of a Highland rebuild committee, which will include stakeholders and district staff and be tasked with reviewing and discussing various options for the project.

“With or without new state funding, Highland High School’s needs haven’t changed,” Judy said. “We still have a critical need to rebuild essential areas of Highland High School.”

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro reports from her hometown of Pocatello. Prior to joining EdNews, she taught English at Century High and was a reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. She has won state and regional journalism awards, and her work has appeared in newspapers throughout the West. Flandro has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and Spanish from the University of Montana, and a master’s degree in English from Idaho State University. You can email her at [email protected] or call or text her at (208) 317-4287.

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