Tension flares as Bonneville trustees agree on $60 million bond measure

IDAHO FALLS — The Bonneville School District will request $60 million for new facilities in March.

The decision came during a Wednesday board meeting, amid tense debate that escalated into a confrontation between Bonneville superintendent Chuck Shackett and trustee Greg Calder.

“Get out of my face,” Shackett told Calder shortly after the vote.

Bonneville Superintendent Chuck Shackett, right, and trustee Greg Calder discuss bond issue options before escalating into an argument.

Calder, who had told Shackett to “be more professional” during the meeting, argued that the measure for a new middle school and elementary school should be presented to voters in two parts, or “tiers”:

  • Tier One: A $35 million bond issue for a 1,000-student middle school, new roof for Iona Elementary School, Falls Valley Elementary School parent dropoff loop, land purchase and design services.
  • Tier Two: A $25 million bond issue for an 850-student elementary school, with added facilities to serve some 200 special education students from across the district.

Calder argued that Tier Two should hinge on the success of the first measure. In other words, if voters reject the middle school bond issue, the elementary school request could not go into effect — regardless of the election’s outcome.

Allowing either option to pass on its own merit would tempt voters to choose one or the other, Calder said, “cannibalizing” overall support.

Shackett argued that a clear differentiation between the two projects would discourage that from happening.

“These are two completely different schools serving two completely different needs,” Shackett said.

The debate triggered a flurry of mumbles between the two men, with Calder charging Shackett of “playing games.”

A red-faced school board chairman Paul Jenkins slammed his gavel to break up the squabble.

“Enough! Please, gentlemen,” Jenkins said.

Bonnneville school board chairman Paul Jenkins, left, reaches for his gavel to break up an argument between Shackett and Calder.

Calder’s proposal for tiered measures eventually passed on a 4-1 vote. Trustee Scott Lynch cast the only opposing vote.

Ammon’s rapid population growth has pushed Bonneville’s middle school enrollment to capacity and left at least two current elementary schools overcrowded. Trustees have debated solutions for absorbing the growth since March.

Administrators will now work with bond attorneys to formalize language for the bond proposal. Trustees will either amend or approve official bond issues Jan. 10.

The district hopes to drill down official locations for both schools. If approved, the middle school will likely be built on 40 district-owned acres adjacent to the nearly completed Thunder Ridge High School.

The elementary school would be built on 19 district-owned acres directly north of the Red Rock subdivision, or on 14 acres off 49th North.

Bonneville director of maintenance and operations John Pymm said the 14-acre plat would provide better access in and out of the school. The district is negotiating with an undisclosed, private seller to secure the land.

Idaho requires a two-thirds supermajority for bond issues to pass — a hurdle Bonneville has struggled to clear in the past.

Bonneville’s original bond issue for a new high school failed three times before passing last year. The district originally asked voters to approve a $95 million bond issue to build both a new high school and a new middle school, designed to take in sixth-graders.

But the original measure failed to receive a majority of votes the first time around, let alone the required supermajority. The district whittled the amount down two more times before eventually settling at $63.5 million — and dumping its original request for a new middle school.

Stay with Idaho Education News for more on this developing story. 


Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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