Boise backtracks on Owyhee elementary closure plans

Parent opposition convinced the Boise administration to reconsider how it manages the closing of Owyhee Elementary School.

Owyhee’s fate was originally a decision slated for December but the district decided, among other changes, to vote in August, avoiding a seventh-month wait for parents. 

At an engagement meeting this month, parents and school supporters adamantly rejected a proposal to convert Owyhee to an early childhood learning center in 2025. The plan was posited by a group of Boise administrators, directors and the superintendency, called the core cabinet.

“We apologize for how we have handled this very difficult situation. We hope that you will give us a chance to do better as we move forward together,” wrote Dave Wagers, president of the school board, in an email released to parents Tuesday.

While parents are opposed to the possible closing of Owyhee, they were particularly disappointed with the leadership’s manner of communication. On one hand, administrators said the decision to close Owyhee had not been made — yet they sent multiple emails and notifications saying the school “would be closed.”

“Following the two meetings with Owyhee parents and the review of written and oral testimony, it has been made clear that the manner in which we communicated our proposal and our process to convert Owyhee elementary to an early childhood learning center was inconsistent with our commitment to openness and transparency. This is not who or what we strive to be and, for that, we apologize,” Wagers wrote.

The district offers early childhood education at more than 11 individual sites and one “community classroom model” location. Owyhee’s conversion to a 300-plus classroom model for 3-5 year olds is part of the district’s plan to meet the needs of a growing population.

Now, Boise is resetting the Owyhee process after identifying three improvement areas to address.

  • A vote specifically on whether or not to convert Owyhee will be held at the school board’s Aug. 12 meeting.
  • Families within the boundaries of Owyhee, Hawthorne, Hillcrest and Whitney have the opportunity to provide testimony to the board and complete a district questionnaire.
  • The district created an expedited timeline for the purpose of clarity and certainty. 

“The August board of trustees meeting is the first step in providing clarity for families. If the board votes to move forward with the conversion of Owyhee to an early childhood learning center, the boundary change process will begin at that point,” Wagers wrote.

The boundary change process is expected to last several months.

According to the district, Owyhee was identified based on the following criteria:

  • Its location is ideally suited to serve the Bench and South Boise.
  • The unique design of the school (modular-based classrooms) is a natural fit with the community classroom philosophy.
  • Ability to accommodate up to 350 preschool students.

The demographics of the Owyhee neighborhood have made it difficult to maintain a healthy level of student enrollment over the past two decades, according to the district. The school currently serves 153 students in grades K-6.

Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

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