Coeur d’Alene trustees agree to close Borah elementary

Coeur d’Alene school trustees made the unprecedented decision Monday evening to close one of their 11 elementary schools due to a hefty shortfall in the 2025 budget.

They also agreed to continue with the five-day week schedule but will consider switching from a late start Monday to an early release Friday to provide effective professional development. For now, the district won’t move to the four-day calendar but it’s still a viable option for future consideration, they said.

The board approved the administration’s recommended cuts amounting to over $4 million. However, at any point, trustees can modify their cost-cutting measures. More budget meetings are planned in the next two months, including a hearing and final adoption in June.

Shrinking enrollment, reduced state funding and increased costs are driving the shortfall. 

“They were not flippant and quick,” said Shon Hocker, district superintendent. “There’s a lot of work that went into” the recommendations.

Next year, Borah Elementary School’s 293 students will be dispersed to Bryan, Fernan, Ramsey, Winton or Dalton elementaries. Attendance will be based on a revised zoning map. Use this link to see the latest zoning proposal.

The closure will generate just over $1 million in savings. The school will not be shuttered. Instead, it will be repurposed for use as the Early Learning Center, for child care options and other programming needs.

To view the letter sent to Borah staff late Monday night, use this link.

Part of the budget plan is to reduce the staff’s size. Many of those reductions will be achieved by not replacing retiring teachers and eliminating contracts that were providing mental health or educational services for positions that are vacant. 

That plan includes reducing 19 teaching positions to align staff with enrollment declines, saving the district $1.425 million. There are more than 19 teachers retiring so their positions will not be filled at the start of the year.

Also at risk are an occupational therapist, nurses, psychologists, classroom assistants, speech language pathologists, instructional coaches, an assistant principal and administrative personnel.

But the board pushed back on reducing mental health, safety or special education services.

“We’re looking at needing a levy in November. If we lose more support, this isn’t going to be the only cut that we make that hurts like this,” said trustee Allie Anderton.

Anderton asked the administration to make a bigger sacrifice and consider closing the district office as a “good faith” effort toward the community. She suggests relocating the staff, selling the building and using those proceeds to shore up the district’s reserve fund.

Our staff, our community is taking a huge hit. Their confidence in leadership is hurting right now. Perception is huge in the support of our schools,” Anderton said

Anderton believes the building is worth $4 million but Hocker’s estimate is half that amount, somewhere between $1.5 – $2 million. Hocker agreed to research the costs associated with renovating a building so his staff can relocate, perhaps to Borah.

“You will have expenses,” he said.

Trustees also approved the suggested cuts listed below:

Proposed Reductions

Reduce Custodial Vacancies $175,000

5% Building Budget Reductions $58,241

Operation Contracts – Early Learning Center Lease $150,000

Professional Development Sub Costs $72,500

Standardize School Building Schedules $25,000

Instructional Software and Assessment $76,000

Curriculum $500,000

Trustees considered other cost-saving options, such as cutting the advanced learner program or reducing the number of assistant principals. Nine out of the district’s 11 elementary schools have a full-time assistant principal.

Facing a slew of tough decisions, trustees were emotional and tearful on several occasions. Trustee Jimmy McAndrew used a moment of levity in the midst of their struggles.

“Everybody expects you to have crossing guards. It’s just one of those things that comes with sending your kids to school,” he said.

Crossing guards were put back into next year’s proposed budget.

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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