Education news briefs from around Idaho

Wood River music students win awards

Wood River High School ensembles and individual students brought home 10 awards for ensembles, plus five individual awards, from the Heritage Music Festival in Anaheim, Calif.

Wood River High School won the Instrumental Sweepstakes award, based on a combination of scores from bands and orchestras.

The Wood River High School Chamber Orchestra received the Outstanding Orchestra award, as well as a gold medal. In addition, the Wood River High School Orchestra received a silver award.

The Dixie Band won first place, the Jazz Band second place, and the Concert Band third place.

Gold medals went to all four choral groups, with Colla Voce and The B-Tones taking first place awards, and Carmina Montis and Spiritus winning second place awards.

Wood River students received four of the five Maestro Awards presented for exceptional soloists. Awards went to Arika Gourley and Jorgen Lawrence, violin; and Olivia Stimac and Beck Vontver, voice.

A special “Magic in You” award, presented by Disneyland to an outstanding student for contributions to the classroom and to the lives of fellow students, went to choral department sophomore Madeline Austin.

Colla Voce
Colla Voce and The B-Tones

District rolls out bus powered by emission-reducing fuel

The Grace School District invested in a bus fueled by propane autogas. This alternative fuel-powered bus will lower district operating costs while reducing the environmental impact. The new Blue Bird Vision Propane school bus went into operation earlier this month.

With other buses, on cold mornings, drivers start buses early and let them idle to ensure they are in driving condition for the first pickup. The propane bus will eliminate the additional costs and time for this, since the propane autogas fuel system heats the bus quickly and provides unaided cold weather starts to -40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Historically, propane autogas costs about half the price of diesel per gallon and reduces maintenance costs due to its clean-operating properties. The Grace district pays 89 cents per gallon for propane autogas compared with $2.10 per gallon for diesel.

The propane autogas bus, which runs a 150-mile-per-day route, will reduce annual nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 1,500 pounds and particulate emissions by almost 32 pounds. Propane autogas reduces hydrocarbon emissions and virtually eliminates particulate emissions.

Idaho’s college savings program makes upgrades

IDeal, Idaho’s 529 College Saving Program, announced changes this week, including lower fees.

On April 15, total annual asset-based fees were reduced from 0.69 percent to 0.51 percent ($5.10 per $1,000 invested).  The Savings Portfolio will remain at 0.34 percent.  IDeal has no commissions, loads or sales charges.

In December, Congress passed a law allowing 529 plan holders to use plan funds to pay for computers (including tablets), peripheral equipment and related services for the beneficiary while enrolled at an eligible educational institution.

 Other changes include the following:

  • Organizations can offer matching grant contributions through the plan.
  • The IDeal customer service line will handle calls in English and Spanish.
  • Beginning May 16, three age-based investment options will be expanded to include additional steps as the beneficiary approaches college age.
  • IDeal’s website now has a calculator feature aimed at helping families estimate how much they should save, a calendar featuring locations and dates of scheduled presentations, information for employers and advisers, and a mobile-compatible interface.
  • Click here for more details and to start a college savings account.