Costs unclear for district name change

Administrators say they don’t know how much it will cost to turn the Meridian School District into the West Ada School District.

But they say they have a good sense of what the name change is worth. They believe the rebranding better reflects the sprawling district, and will give the district more of a sense of place.

West Ada district logo
The West Ada School District’s new logo.

The Meridian moniker no longer fits the state’s largest school district, say officials. Only about half of the district’s 36,000 students actually live in Meridian. The district draws students from unincorporated Ada County, a sliver of Canyon County, and all or part of the other five cities in Ada County: Boise, Eagle, Garden City, Kuna and Star.

“(The name is) telling people in five cities, ‘You’re not part of this school district,’”

spokesman Eric Exline said.

Hence the name change, announced June 24.

If the rebranding seemed abrupt — and trustee Carol Sayles voted against the move, according to Meridian Press, because she felt the idea needed more time to percolate — the idea has actually been kicked around for years. But Exline, a 16-year veteran of the district, said the discussion began to ramp up in the past year. Along with that came the design of a new logo, and brainstorming on a name that would better fit the district.

The old, legal name — Joint School District No. 2 — was not deemed a good fit. It accurately reflects the history behind the consolidated district, but the long name doesn’t roll easily off the tongue, and district officials say it “doesn’t communicate anything meaningful.”

West Ada reflects the growth trends in the state’s most populous district, but even it isn’t a perfect description of the geography. The West Ada district takes in some sparsely populated desert on the south end of Ada County, and even the area near Eisenman Road and Interstate 84, east of the Micron Technology campus. The Eisenman area had been seen as a potential location for planned residential communities, before the Great Recession brought the valley’s housing boom to a halt.

The West Ada name change is already getting what Exline calls a “soft rollout.” And it will be a piecemeal process.

Phone receptionists are already using the new name. The district has reserved a new Internet domain name and will incorporate the new name in a redesigned Web page that will go live in August. Employees will get new email addresses, and when the old district letterhead is used up, the district will order new supplies with the new name. The district’s buses will be relabeled; contractor Cascade Student Transportation will incur the cost and the work as part of its five-year contract with the district, also announced late in June.

The biggest expense will be changing out five signs at the district’s Meridian headquarters. Officials haven’t decided when this will be done, Exline said, and “we haven’t even estimated the cost yet.”

Cost has been a recurring question about the rebranding, on various social media platforms. Still, Exline downplays the ultimate, and unknown, pricetag.

“The biggest cost is just our efforts, but I was rebuilding the web page anyway,” he said.

But the rebranding, and the cost questions, comes as the district goes before voters seeking a $104 million bond issue. The election is set for Aug. 26.

Exline says he isn’t sure how the rebranding question will affect the August bond issue, the first sought by the district since 2005. But he says the rebranding could pay long-term dividends.

The West Ada district may have to go before voters every couple of years to seek bond issues, to make space for its ever-increasing enrollment. The name change could serve to remind voters that the district needs support to build and maintain facilities across a wide swath of the Treasure Valley, not just Meridian.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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