West Ada School District Superintendent Derek Bub talked about redrawing elementary school boundaries and rolling in modular classrooms during last Monday’s board meeting as ways to manage overcrowding.
Major plans for construction, renovation and improvements to all 58 West Ada schools were scrapped for the near future after voters rejected a $500 million plant facilities levy proposal last month.
Bub told trustees that they will need to find alternative solutions to managing growth in their 40,000-plus student population.
“While we are disappointed with the outcome of the election, we are certainly not defeated. A lot of planning went into the levy and we will pour our energy into finding alternate solutions for our facilities needs because our students deserve it,” West Ada asserted in a letter to parents.
The district will prioritize projects that “have a direct impact on students’ educational experience.” This means focusing on instructional space improvements, such as replacing accordion walls in classrooms and upgrading HVAC, lighting, technology and furniture.
Updates to outdoor athletics and activities areas will be minimized and maintenance updates like new carpeting, refinished tennis courts and repaved parking lots will be delayed.
Now that plans for building two new elementary schools in the north and south ends of the state’s largest district have been rejected, the district plans to add portable classrooms to address congestion at Star, Hillsdale and Mary McPherson elementary schools.
West Ada officials also plan to continue bussing students to outside schools to relieve overpopulated hallways. In a parent letter, superintendent Bub said that, going forward, “extended bussing will be addressed and implemented where necessary” and that “attendance areas will be addressed and adjusted as needed.”
What this means in practical terms is yet to be solved. West Ada will examine final enrollment numbers to determine facility needs. If officials decide to redraw boundaries to ease capacity issues, West Ada’s operations team would oversee the process, present the proposed solution to Bub and then go to the school board for final approval.
Tight finances also require a “soft hiring freeze” as West Ada analyzes its hiring process and ensures that requested certified positions are necessary for student learning.
While the growing district faces significant challenges without the funds that it deemed necessary for growth, Bub remains positive about how West Ada’s employees and staff will respond.
“We have a tremendous staff,” he said at Monday’s board meeting. “I want to thank our building staff who maintain unbelievable educational opportunities for all of our kids. And I want to shout out our maintenance workers who continue to uphold and make sure our buildings are in working order so we can offer education in those facilities every day.”