Aberdeen prepares to build new high school

ABERDEEN — Administrators in Aberdeen are moving forward with their plans to build a $12 million high school.

In May, 67 percent of Aberdeen voters approved a bond for the new building – something superintendent Jane Ward said couldn’t have come at a better time.

“It will replace our current middle school bond, which will be paid off in August 2017,” she said, adding that voters will not see an increase in their property taxes next year.

Historically low interest rates and the district’s recently improved investment rating also make it a good time for the project, Ward said.

Moody’s Investors Service, a San Francisco-based bond credit agency, last month bumped up the district’s credit rating from “Bbb” to “Aaa.” Investors will use the district’s rating when deciding whether or not to back the project when the bond is divided up and sold on July 14. Districts rely on investors when making large capital expenditures like a new school. They then pay the investors back over a fixed period of time, with interest.

“The improved rating will help secure a better interest rate later this month,” said Ward, which could save the district “millions” in the long run.

The new building is aimed at eliminating overcrowding in the current high school, which served 212 students last year.

The current high school accommodates 25 to 27 students per class — too many for the smaller, 65-year-old classrooms, said principal Travis Pincock.

“Teachers have a hard time getting up and down the isles in their classes,” he said.

Ward didn’t provide any drawings or dimensions of the proposed school and its classrooms but said a groundbreaking ceremony will likely happen in August.

The new structure will also include a 400-seat auditorium, an auxiliary gym and an agriculture shop. The current high school gymnasium will stay.

Ward praised community members who supported the bond and the district’s effort to include stakeholders in the plans. Roughly 2,000 reside in Aberdeen, a farming town located 40 miles west of Pocatello.

“The high school is really the hub of our little community,” she said, “so it makes sense to include them as much as we can in making these kinds of decisions.”

The district assembled a “vision committee,” comprised mostly of community members, over a year ago. Members of the committee worked with architects from Hutchison and Smith, the Boise firm handling construction, to target areas of highest need, Ward said.