Dallas Harris Elementary School dedicated at ribbon-cutting ceremony in Boise

Amidst a lively chant of, “cut it, cut it, cut it!” from the students, Principal Wendi Forrey snipped the blue ribbon at Dallas Harris Elementary School in Boise on Tuesday afternoon.

The freshly-painted school gym was full of Boise School District students, staff, and community members. Some dressed in western clothes to honor the namesake of the school, Dallas Harris, a prominent Boise rancher whose family donated all of the land for the school and helped with the planning. They also presented Forrey with a check for $100,000, dedicated “to the students of DHES!”

Principal Wendi Forrey and a student cut the blue ribbon to dedicate Dallas Harris Elementary School, the newest school in Boise School District. Brandon Schertler / Idaho Education News

The funding for the construction of Dallas Harris Elementary School came as part of a $172.5 million bond issue passed in March 2017, with 86% of voters backing the bond.

“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the voters who supported and passed the bond election, and are immensely thankful to the Harris family for their generous donation of the land on which the school now stands,” Coby Dennis, Boise School District superintendent, said in a press release. “Your collective contributions have been instrumental in making this project a reality, and we are truly appreciative of the support from the community.”

Dallas Harris is located in southeastern Boise, a fast-growing area and one defying the trends of declining enrollment in Boise School District.

In 1997, Boise School District’s enrollment peaked at over 27,000 students. This school year, that number has dropped to 22,495. Rising home prices, declining birth rates and an aging population all play a role.Brandon Schertler / Idaho Education News

According to Forrey, the school has received over 100 new students in the last few months. Next year, they will have close to 400 students. Their maximum enrollment is around 500.

The school’s first group of students started attending Dallas Harris in November of 2023, moving from Riverside Elementary after the school year was underway.

Dallas Harris Elementary School is not just a place of learning, but a community asset that symbolizes our dedication to fostering thriving neighborhoods,” Dave Wagers, president of the Boise School Board, said. “It stands as a beacon of our commitment to providing quality education and opportunities for growth.

About 300 students were in attendance at the opening ceremony.

Student Elyse Anderson, a sixth grader who spoke at the assembly, had attended Riverside since kindergarten. Though transitioning to a new school this fall had its challenges, she said she loves Dallas Harris elementary, especially its “giant windows” and “unbelievably comfortable” library benches.

“We the students truly appreciate all the people who put their heart and hard work into building the school from the ground up. We are super grateful for the opportunity to go to Dallas Harris. Thank you, and GO YOTES!”

Student Elyse Anderson speaks about her experience at Dallas Harris at the dedication. Brandon Schertler / Idaho Education News

Forrey, in her 31st year at Boise School District, said she knew it would be work to get a new school up and running. “I told myself if I get to do this, I’m going to be grateful through all of that. I was honored to be considered and I was not going to take it lightly.”

She also thanked the Harris family for its care and attention to the school and students, like planting flowers outside the school, and bringing treats for staff and students. “Every time I turn around, there’s a new little gift to our school and to our community.”

Millie Davis, Harris’ daughter, said in a speech, “our dad believed education was more than important, it was critical.”

Several Harris descendants attend Dallas Harris as students, and soon, one will teach there. Beth Ogden Felicia, a 16-year teaching veteran and Harris’ granddaughter, told EdNews she will be moving to teach at the school in the fall.

“I’m super excited to teach [the students] about my grandpa…it’s a real honor to have his name on the building.”

The 3-story elementary school has kindergarten on the first floor, grades first through third on the second and fourth through sixth on the third. “You get a workout wherever you go,” one student remarked, referring to the numerous flights of stairs in the building.

Sixth graders Paige Roynas and Titus Rajsich, who gave tours after the ceremony, showed off the many spaces they can go in the school to reset. The third floor has an outdoor study area with a view of the Boise foothills, and glass cubes between classes give students a quiet space as well. In the music room, students can relax in a “cozy squirrel” sitting spot.

Sixth graders Paige Roynas and Titus Rajsich were some of the students giving tours to community members after the ceremony. Brandon Schertler / Idaho Education News

“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the taxpayers and Harris Family members,” Wagers said, “whose support has made this dream a reality.”

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Data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report.

Katie McGuire

Katie McGuire

Katie McGuire is a freelance reporter for EdNews. She lives in Meridian with her husband and their two children. She has a bachelor's degree in secondary education social science teaching from Brigham Young University and a master's in history from Kent State University.

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