A school district that’s known for its decaying buildings and repeatedly failing bond measures once again plans to ask taxpayers to chip in for facilities.
Salmon school trustees unanimously voted to put a bond issue on the May ballot at their regular board meeting Monday. The decision comes after an extraordinary 0-12 record of bond failures since 2006, and amid dire circumstances in Salmon schools — including a cracked foundation, collapsing sewer lines, and outdoor food storage.
The details and cost of the bond ask are still being worked out, but Superintendent Troy Easterday said the measure would finance a new Pre-K-8 school. If voters approve the measure, it would be the first to pass in the community since 1978, Easterday said.
The proposed school would allow students in grades 4-6 to move out of portables and would enable all students to learn in a functional building. It would replace Pioneer Elementary, which has a host of major issues — like its cracked foundation and frost heaves in the flooring.
“You can walk into a lot of classrooms and actually feel the concrete crunching under the carpet,” Easterday said.
A committee of local parents and community members is driving the effort to pass a bond — which Easterday said is “a different approach.”
A superintendent and district staff usually make the recommendations regarding bond proposals, but Easterday has effectively turned that over to the community group, in hopes of a different result from May’s election.
“Let’s see if we can get community members, parents, and grandparents on board and maybe we can make this happen,” he said. “And it seems like we have better traction than we have had before.”
There’s another advantage to the community group taking the lead — its members aren’t prohibited from advocating for the bond, as district employees are. They can knock on doors and encourage people to vote ‘yes.’
“I think it’s a better approach, especially where our hands are tied with what we can say as a district and do,” Easterday said.
Representatives from the group seemed hopeful Monday night.
Breann Green, a parent on the committee, said the group had been traveling throughout the greater Salmon community and talking with stakeholders to answer questions, address concerns, and provide information about the proposed bond. So far, most say the bond “seems reasonable,” she said.
But in Idaho, school bonds are more likely to fail than succeed. Since 2019, districts have put 64 bonds on the ballot, and 70% of them (or 45) have failed. Bonds require a two-thirds supermajority approval to pass — one of the highest thresholds in the nation.
Salmon last ran a bond in 2019, but the $25.6 million ask failed with 58% approval.
Still, Easterday is optimistic: “We have a better chance than we’ve ever had to pass one.”
Salmon’s facility problems — and the lack of funds to address them — are “not unique,” Easterday told trustees Monday.
Idaho’s deteriorating school buildings have made national headlines this year, as the focus of a partnership between ProPublica and the Idaho Statesman. The coverage has helped put facilities funding at the forefront of education conversations.
“People are listening,” Easterday said. “We’ve definitely got the ear of our Legislature and our governor and the lieutenant governor, so I’m happy to report that.”