New high school taking over former Sears location inside the Grand Teton Mall - East Idaho News

New high school taking over former Sears location inside the Grand Teton Mall

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IDAHO FALLS — After about two years of working to make it possible, a local charter school has been given the green-light to open a new high school next year.

In an email sent Monday morning addressed to the Alturas (International Academy) community, it explained that on Aug. 13 via a virtual meeting of the Idaho Public Charter School Commission, the new high school, Alturas Preparatory Academy, was officially approved to open Fall 2021. The school will be for students in grades six through 12.

“We’re really excited to be able to expand the grades that we’re offering and that we’re able to expand the International Baccalaureate program up through high school,” Alturas International Academy Principal Brian Bingham told

Come next school year, they will start with grades six through 10 at the new school location, adding 11th and 12th grades in over the next two years. The new school was awarded a grant last week from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation to help fund the purchase and renovation of the school’s future home which is the former location of Sears inside the Grand Teton Mall.

The school will be completely closed off from the mall. They plan to have 30 classrooms, science labs, common areas, an art room, drama room, music room, gym, wide hallways and abundant natural light, according to a press release. Each classroom will also feature large overhead doors that allow the rooms to open into larger collaborative spaces.

“It’s going to be a six or seven million dollar remodel,” Alturas Executive Director Michelle Ball said. “Because it’s over a 70,000 square foot building it offered us the opportunity to do collaborative spaces for the kids and give them a high school atmosphere.”

Alturas prep planning
Michelle Ball and three board members looking over the plans. (From left to right: Christine Ogden, Michelle Ball, Callie Hatch and Anna Long.) | Courtesy Alturas International Academy

Basically what will happen is the school’s current six through eighth grade will become the seventh through ninth grade, and they will bring up their fifth graders as sixth graders. They plan to open up roughly 25 seats for the sophomore class.

Ball and Bingham expect the first year of Alturas Preparatory Academy to have roughly 260 students. Each year they plan to add a new sixth-grade class until they reach their capacity at the high school, which will be 96 seats available per grade level.

Kindergarten through fifth grade will remain in the current O.E. Bell building. They’ll expand to fill the seats vacated by the middle school students. An additional 24 seats will open up in each grade level for a total of 144 available spots.

“As the students from Alturas International grow up through the Preparatory Academy those seats will be added to make sure that we’re able to offer all students that attended Alturas International the opportunity to come to the high school,” Bingham said.

The school will follow the same model that Alturas International uses that centers on teaching students primarily in small groups according to their instructional levels, rather than in large lectures according to grade level, according to a news release.

Bingham said students who attend the high school can earn 30 college credits, plus they will seek authorization as an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School. The IB high school curriculum focuses on critical thinking and community and global stewardship, and it contains two tracks — a rigorous diploma program and a more traditional career-oriented program, the news release explains.

Alturas International is currently the only authorized International Baccalaureate World School in eastern Idaho, a school news release states.

“That opportunity to obtain the diploma program and stand out on their college applications and receive a strong education will provide an opportunity for them to be successful at the university level,” Bingham said.

Alturas prep2
An example of what the inside of Alturas Preparatory Academy will look like. | Courtesy Alturas International Academy

Enrollment will be determined by a lottery system, with priority given to current Alturas International students and their siblings.

The new school will be open to any student living in the boundaries of Idaho Falls School District 91, Bonneville School District 93 or Shelley School District 60, as well as others by application. There will be no charge for admission.

“We’re thrilled that it all came together,” Ball said. “It’s been quite the work in progress, and we really have thought it through very thoroughly.”

Construction on the high school is expected to start sometime after Oct. 1.

The plan is for Bingham to become the principal of Alturas Preparatory once it opens, and Reece Drkula, a current teacher at Alturas International, will take over as principal there.

For more information on the new school, email Ball or Bingham.