The Twin Falls School District isn’t bursting at the seams with growth — yet — but the seams are stretching.
That’s why school officials are please the construction on two new elementary schools and one middle school are making progress and on time to open in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Right before they burst, we’ll be opening new schools,” said Twin Falls Superintendent Wiley Dobbs. “This year our middle schools will be OK, but next year they will be tight. But the cavalry is on its way.”
Enrollment in the Twin Falls School District has increased by more than 9.9 percent since 2011 while statewide enrollment grew by less than 2.6 percent over the same time period. The new schools will help ease growing capacity burdens at the existing schools.
Construction of the two elementary schools is underway – Rock Creek Elementary and Pillar Falls Elementary. Construction on South Hills Middle School will likely begin in late September. Boundaries will be discussed this fall.
“We’ll move from having a couple of middle schools that have a thousand students each to three middle schools that have 700 students each,” Dobbs said, noting that the district’s two high schools – Twin Falls and Canyon Ridge – also will receive upgrades this school year.
“Changing school boundaries can sometimes be emotional, but we hope to keep the community informed,” he said.
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Twin Falls residents passed a $73.8 million bond for the schools in March 2014, riding the wave of economic growth in the community. Several new businesses have relocated to Twin Falls and others such as Chobani are expanding.
Vibrant schools are important to attracting new businesses, Dobbs said.
The district has already started planning for the opening of the new schools and hopes for a smooth transition when it comes to hiring teachers and other staff. Many of the teachers are expected to transfer from the other schools. The district will have to hire new secretarial, food service and custodial personal.
“We’re starting early enough, letting people know what we’re doing,” Dobbs said, noting that when Canyon Ridge High School opened in 2009, not one teacher was involuntarily moved. “It’s because we started early, people started talking; we hired the principal early. We’re anticipating that’s going to be the same when we open the two elementary schools.”
Dobbs said the district has tried to be deliberate and careful in its planning, even when upgrading the high schools.
At Canyon Ridge, the district plans to add capacity for an additional 480 students. When the school was constructed in 2009 the district built it for its current needs, knowing additions would be needed later. The school will remain open this year during the upgrades.
Twin Falls High will be getting a new roof, windows and an overhaul of the air conditioning. The school also will get fire suppression material throughout the building and various other cosmetic improvements.
“We want to do what’s best for all our kids,” Dobbs said.
Dobbs said the next hurdle will be tackling boundary issues. He will involve parents and patrons but said “people will have to set aside their personal preferences.”
Dobbs said: “What we’re standing behind is that we’re going to have nine excellent schools. It’s not a building that makes a school, but the people inside.”