Challis school board members showed their commitment to the Stanley School and allocated up to $550,000 for the possible expansion of the school which today houses students only through eighth grade.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic brought more people with children to Stanley, doubling enrollment there in the last couple of years, and since school leaders were approached last year about selling the middle school building, discussion about expanding the Stanley building has begun. School board members last month looked at the estimated costs to expand the Stanley School and to expand Challis High School. The $22.3 million price tag for the high school project didn’t gain any traction among board members, but the $906,905 estimate for work in Stanley was more palatable.

Trustees voted to allocate federal funds the district is receiving through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief and the Learning Loss programs, both of which are part of the American Rescue Plan Act, to the Stanley project. Challis is receiving $852,000 in ESSER money and $215,000 in Learning Loss funds, Superintendent Lani Rembelski said. The money needs to be spent by 2025, she said. Trustees Janiel Parkinson and Trish Farr endorsed the plan to use some of the federal money for the Stanley project, but not all of it.

Rembelski recommended the board move forward with the Stanley project and shelve the high school plan. She said that Adam Marvel, with the Stanley Parent Association, told her that group is willing to help with the school expansion.

Farr wondered if the Stanley plan could be accomplished in stages. But Parkinson said she thought it made more sense to do it all at once.

Marvel, who was at last week’s meeting, said the cost of building materials keeps increasing and prices aren’t expected to drop, so a phased-in project could cost even more.

He said the parent association needs dollar amounts as it begins its work. What the group needed to know, Marvel said, was “you’ll give us this much money and the project will start on this day, so we know how much money we need to raise. And if there’s more money from the district later, great.”

Once the parent association knows how much money the district would contribute and how much they’d need to raise, they might look at some options to the preliminary plan, Marvel said. For example parents might want a bigger gym or a bigger library and they could decide to raise enough money to cover that additional cost, he said.

Expanding the Stanley School to offer high school classes lets Stanley residents with younger children better plan for the future, Marvel said.

“They can think about four more years in Stanley versus moving and buying another house somewhere else,” when their child starts high school, he said.

Board Chairman Brett Plummer said if grades 9 through 12 are added in Stanley, he believes enrollment will be high enough that the school could fund itself in the long term with money allocated from the state. “It won’t cost us a lot,” he said.

“It is cool to see Stanley School grow,” Parkinson said.

Currently 20 students attend school in Stanley, down from 23 who enrolled at the beginning of the year, but up from nine a few years ago. Marvel said it looks like 19 students will attend school in Stanley next year.

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