West Ada steps up case for bond issue

With an overcrowded middle school and rows of National Junior Honor Society students providing the backdrop, a series of business and civic leaders took their turns Friday campaigning for the $96 million West Ada school bond issue.

Voters in the ever-growing suburban district will get the final say Tuesday.

It’ll be the second time in seven months that West Ada voters will decide on a bond issue. In August, a similar bond issue received 63 percent support, falling shy of the two-thirds supermajority required to incur long-term debt.

This time around, West Ada has trimmed back the sticker price by $8 million, by removing some land acquisitions. Perhaps more significantly, the district is campaigning more aggressively.

Hence Friday morning’s news conference. Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd and Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Bill Connors were on hand to restate their endorsements. The district also has endorsements from the Eagle and Meridian chambers of commerce and the Treasure Valley Family YMCA — one partner in an elementary school project that would be financed by the bond issue.

Timing worked against the August bond issue, West Ada Superintendent Linda Clark said Friday. State law allows school districts to run bond issues and levies on the fourth Tuesday in August, but last summer, this coincided with the opening week of classes in West Ada.

“The second day of school, you can’t really mobilize your parent groups,” she said. “It’s hard to have a buildup to the bond in the summer.”

Officials in the state’s largest district hope to reduce overcrowding at the elementary, middle school and high school levels.

The district’s share of the cost on a new elementary school is $10 million. The district would spend $24 million to speed up a remodeling and expansion at Meridian High School — which, in turn, would ease overcrowding issues at Rocky Mountain and Mountain View high schools.

The bulk of the money, $60 million, would go to two new middle schools. This is where the district is wrestling its most severe overcrowding issues. At Lake Hazel Middle School, the venue for Friday’s news conference, some 1,450 students are attending a school built for 1,000.

Clark said she is cautiously optimistic heading into Tuesday’s tally. She can back on at least one high-profile absentee vote.

“I have already voted yes,” de Weerd said Friday.

Video segment by Andrew Reed, Idaho Education News.

A statewide look: West Ada headlines a big election day across Idaho, with at least $393 million in bond issues and levies on the line. Here’s an in-depth look at the hotspots.

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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