Hearing over new West Ada high school plans continued

The opening day of Owyhee High School may be pushed back to 2021 as West Ada officials and patrons wait two weeks to find out about their annexation and permit requests for the construction project.

Following a lengthy meeting Tuesday night, the Meridian City Council continued a public hearing over the school district’s requests until 6 p.m. Oct. 23, the Meridian City Clerk’s Office said.

The purpose of the new high school is to ease overcrowding within the state’s largest school district. In March, West Ada’s patrons voted to approve a $95 million bond issue that would provide funding for the new high school.

Based on feedback from patrons, district officials selected a site at 7020 Ustick Road, just west of McDermott Road, to build the school. However, the land where the school would be built is located in Ada County. West Ada officials filed a request to have the land annexed into the city of Meridian and applied for a conditional use permit to build the school with lighted athletic fields and an outdoor speaker system.

West Ada spokesman Eric Exline said some of the discussion Tuesday concerned an agreement with a neighboring developer to build a road to provide public access to the site. Exline said the city council was concerned that the school would be built and the road would not be finished.

“The long and short of it is West Ada will work with the city staff to go through all possible conditions of approval and try to make them as solid as we can when we go back on Oct. 23,” Exline said.

With winter weather on the horizon, Exline said Owyhee’s projected opening date could be affected. In the run up to the March bond issue, West Ada officials said they hoped to open the new school in the fall of 2020.

That initial estimate now appears “optimistic and aggressive,” Exline said.

“At this point, that won’t happen,” he said. “It will open in 2021.”

District officials already have designs for Owyhee completed. If the district gets the go-ahead on Oct. 23, it would still need to wait for building permits to be issued before breaking ground.

Once all the requisite approvals and permits are in place, Exline said the district could immediately put the construction project out to bid.

“But if the ground is frozen (by then), getting started with earth work and doing concrete is pretty challenging in freezing weather,” Exline said. “It won’t be until we get better weather in early spring before we can get much done.”

The budgeted construction cost for the new high school is $60 million, according to West Ada’s informational bond materials.

Even with the public hearing continued, Exline said the district still favors the location on Ustick Road.

“It is the right spot to solve the overcrowding problems we have right now,” he said.

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