Bonneville fields questions on $35.3 million bond measure

IDAHO FALLS — The Bonneville School District held two public meetings Tuesday to outline costs and design concepts tied to a $35.3 million March 13 bond measure for a new middle school.

District administrators and NBW Architects president Kevin Bodily fielded questions about the potential project at both meetings, held respectively at Sandcreek and Rocky Mountain middle schools.

Most questions dealt with school safety and the district’s recent decision to drop a request for a $25 million elementary school from the upcoming measure. Trustees had approved a $60 million proposal for both projects, but legal concerns unveiled during a January board meeting prompted the school board to backpedal the elementary school option.

Some patrons said they felt robbed by the decision to drop the elementary school measure, which would have included 15 additional classrooms to serve as integrated space for some 200 K-6 special education students. However, Bonneville superintendent Chuck Shackett stressed Tuesday that a measure for a new elementary school will likely wind up back on the ballot by November, and maybe by August.

“It will happen,” Shackett said, adding that running the measures separately lessened “full-scale opposition” to the current middle school proposal. “I think we made the right decision, based on the fact that there’s not many people here today,” Shackett said. (Shackett and trustee Scott Lynch supported running both measures simultaneously during a contentious series of debates in recent months.)

Shackett also outlined factors affecting the measure’s cost to taxpayers, including the district’s rapid population growth and bond interest payments. State subsidies on the interest portion of the project will add up to $9.8 million, Shackett said, keeping the total cost for the middle school to $40.3 million for local patrons.

Ammon’s rapid growth also keeps costs down by spreading the share of local taxes to a greater number of home and business owners in the district. Shackett pointed to an overall decline in Bonneville’s share of local property taxes since 2004, when patrons paid $962 per 100,000 of taxable value. A swelling tax base stemming from growth helped reduce this amount to $580 per $100,000 in 2016, a nearly 40 percent reduction, though Bonneville patrons still fund one of the highest levy rates in the state.

Still, current and projected growth will fund a forthcoming measure for a new elementary school, Shackett said.

“I think we can continue to build without (increasing the levy rate),” Shackett said.

After Shackett’s cost analysis, Bonneville maintenance and operation director John Pymm shifted discussion to design concepts. The district does not currently have a design to present to the public, Pymm said, though he outlined a number of features patrons will likely see:

  • Collaborative learning space
  • Science labs
  • Vocational space
  • Food lab
  • Art, technology and robotics space
  • Music space

The school will not have an auditorium, Pymm said, since Bonneville’s nearly completed Thunder Ridge High School is within walking distance and already has one.

One patron asked about the safety features built in the new middle school. NBW’s Bodily said entire portions of the school, or “pods,” could be locked with the push of a button in order to keep intruders out. Individual classrooms would also have this feature, Bodily said.

“Hopefully (a live shooter) couldn’t make it into a pod,” Bodily said, “but we can’t account for all scenarios.”

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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