D93 proposes $58 million bond for new middle school

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AMMON — The Bonneville Joint School District 93 Board of Trustees looks to solve its overcrowding problem in elementary schools by building a middle school.

The school board came to a decision during a Wednesday board meeting to move forward with a $58 million bond proposal to start building a new school later this year.

If the bond is approved, the money will be divided into three main parts: a new 1,200 student middle school, a special education center, and a new roof and drop-off area for Iona and Falls Valley elementary schools.

About $1.5 million would go toward the special education center and roof and drop-off area. The rest would be for the construction of the middle school.

D93 Superintendent Chuck Shackett said three board members voted in favor of the bond and two voted against.

“There’s just a difference in beliefs in how to solve the overcrowding,” Shackett said. “The feeling of the community was split also.”

Shackett said those who were against the bond felt the sixth grade should stay within a K-6 elementary school configuration.

A new middle school would essentially change the grades that are hosted in some elementary schools in district. Sixth-grade students would be grouped with seventh- and eighth-grade students instead of the usual K-6 setting. Elementary school would then become K-5 schools.

“Those in favor felt that by building a middle school and bringing all the sixth-grade classes up to the middle school, that frees up several classes in the elementary. That would then solve the elementary (schools’) problem through the larger middle school,” Shackett said.

Those in opposition to the middle school bond would have rather seen money go toward a new elementary school.

“Those in favor of the elementary preferred to keep sixth-graders down in the more nurturing environment,” Shackett said.

Shackett said it is more expensive to build a middle school than an elementary school. A new middle school costs about $40,000 per student. A new elementary school would cost about $25,000 per seat.

However, the board decided a new middle school would provide a more long-term solution to the increasing population in the district and the overgrowth at elementary schools.

“We’re moving forward. The board made their decision, and it’s one of those tough ones because there are always multiple ways to make a decision and to solve the growth problem,” Shackett said. “We’re growing at 400 to 500 (students) ever year, and it’s not going to stop for at least another decade.”

The board will submit a resolution to the Bonneville County Elections Office to get the bond measure on the ballot for the Aug. 29 election.

If the bond passes the new special education center will be built in 2019 and will have 16 classrooms. It will host 200 to 250 students. It will be attached to an elementary school of which hasn’t been decided yet.

The new roof will be constructed next summer.

Shackett said if approved, the new middle school would take about three years to construct, and would open its doors in the fall of 2020. The school would be built on the 135-acre lot that the new Thunder Ridge High School is on. (Thunder Ridge opens in 2018.) It would follow the district’s pattern of neighboring middle and high schools.

“We will have the high school and middle school all on the same location,” Shackett said. “We’re continuing that combination of the two schools being together.”

The bond needs a supermajority, or 66.6 percent of the vote, to pass. If the bond passes, it will not increase the tax levy rate. The more the population grows the more tax dollars are generated, allowing the current rate to remain the same, Shackett said.

Shackett said until the bond is passed the district will use 32 available mobile classrooms for elementary school students to alleviate overcrowding.

“We’re excited with the growth — it’s just trying to keep up with it,” Shackett said.

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