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New charter school to move into O.E. Bell building next year

Idaho Falls

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IDAHO FALLS — A new charter school will be housed inside a historic Idaho Falls building.

On July 28 the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation approved a grant for Alturas International Academy, a new charter school that is quickly gaining a footing in the community. The grant will help secure the O.E. Bell building on North Ridge Avenue as a permanent home for the school.

“Charter schools, they can’t do levies, they can’t get funds to build buildings, so this is an incredible thing that (the foundation) is involved in,” head teacher Michelle Ball said.

In addition, O.E. Bell is being purchased for Alturas by a nonprofit organization, Building Hope.

Building Hope focuses on serving charter schools and facility development. Building Hope is overlooking the remodel of O.E. Bell to bring it back to a schooling standard.

The building, which was a junior high from 1930 to the early 1980’s, now holds office spaces and businesses. Ball says Building Hope will work with current tenants to find the best possible solutions for relocation.

“They are going to renovate the gym so it’s a functional space. They’re going to put in an administrative and office space in front of the building, they’re going to put almost 30 classrooms into this building so that we can grow into it,” principal Steven Andrew said.

Recently, the school has gone through multiple approvals to solidify plans that could have taken years. On July 19 the City of Idaho Falls approved the O.E. Bell building for educational occupancy.

“We will be moving into O.E. Bell next year, which is just an amazing location for school,” Ball said.

She says having the O.E. Bell building and being located in downtown Idaho Falls will make way for great educational opportunities for students.

“We’re by the Art Museum, we’re by the Museum of Idaho, we’re by the ARTitorium, we’re by the greenbelt, the Japanese Gardens, we’re by the courthouse, we’re by the mayor’s office — just a wealth of cultural experiences for the children in downtown Idaho Falls,” Ball said.

Andrew said he’s glad to have the building secured because it will mean a long-term stay for the new charter school.

“This opportunity to be able to get into O.E. Bell is a really big deal because this isn’t just a temporary home for our school, it’s school that we can grow into and that we can be here for not just a couple of years, but for decades,” Andrew said.

Alturas currently has 280 enrolled and has many on waiting lists. Alturas has also taken on more faculty including 12 new teachers. School is set to start Aug. 22 at the Boys Scouts building on Yellowstone.