Bonneville Joint School District 93 voters could be voting soon whether to bond for a new middle school, but a new elementary school might have to wait.
While the District 93 Board of Trustees didn’t vote at its work session Wednesday and isn’t locked into anything yet, almost two hours of discussion and a straw poll at the end of the work session showed a 3-2 majority that supports moving ahead soon with seeking a bond to build a new school middle school. The new school would be located on district-owned land next to the still-under-construction Thunder Ridge High School. A few unrelated small projects at other schools likely would be included in this bond request.
However, those three members who polled in the majority aren’t ready to move forward with a new elementary school, given that the school’s site hasn’t been settled, debate over including a special education hub as part of it and perceived political problems with getting a large bond that includes two new schools approved by the needed two-thirds supermajority.
“That’s where I’m at, too, it’s political,” said board Vice Chairwoman Amy Landers. “I think we do what we can get passed.”
The board originally had planned to put a bond for a new middle school, special needs hub and a couple of the small projects on the ballot in August, but withdrew the $58.5 million proposal after a change on the board. The major difference between that earlier proposal and what trustees were leaning toward Wednesday is the special needs hub wouldn’t be included, bringing the total bond cost down to the low-$40 millions.
The board must decide by Jan. 23 whether to put another bond measure on the March ballot. The latest estimates the district is working with are for either $36.4 million or $39 million for a middle school, depending on the size. An elementary school would be $16.7 million if the district doesn’t include a 200-student special education hub, $25 million if it does. Trustees also are considering including a few smaller projects in the bond, including $1 million to replace the roof at Iona Elementary School, $500,000 for a new pickup/drop-off loop at Falls Valley Elementary School and $500,000 for architectural work toward future expansion of Bonneville and Hillcrest high schools.
Trustees talked Wednesday about two possible sites for a new elementary school, either near Thunder Ridge or on some land the district has been negotiating to acquire in the Red Rock neighborhood. There also is the issue of whether to include the special needs hub, an issue on which a couple of board members said they should solicit more input before moving forward.
“I think it can derail the bond if there’s not acceptance,” Trustee Chad Dance said. “I think it needs more work.”
Supporters of moving forward quickly with constructing an elementary school pointed to the district’s growing population and the higher construction costs caused by delay as a reason to put it on the ballot as soon as possible.
“The public, I think, will support both projects,” Trustee Scott Lynch said. “It’s more of a need than a want.”
Board Chairman Paul Jenkins suggested a tiered ballot initiative, where the elementary and middle schools are listed separately. This, he said, would give them a better sense of the public’s view than any outreach or public forums.
“We already know we need another building,” Jenkins said. “The feedback I’m getting is, let’s just do it.”
However, some trustees worried too big of a bond would be more likely to fail. Landers also worried about putting something on the ballot the whole board isn’t solidly behind.
“I think it’s going to be bad politically if we’re not on the same page,” she said.
The board meets again Dec. 13.
Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757.