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The Bonneville Joint School District 93 Board of Trustees discussed two major items during Wednesday's work session: the potential end to the district's driver's education program and timely, methodical research for May's bond. 

District driver's ed program facing potential end

Board chairman Paul Jenkins noted that he was a member of the district's first driver's ed program back in the 1960s.

"They gave us driver's licenses with gold imprinting on them," Jenkins said with a smile. "Just got a bit nostalgic." 

The program's resources have changed drastically since the 2008 economic recession, and Assistant Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme brought up the possibility of ending the program due to a lack of students and teachers involved.

Only 34 District 93 students and two teachers use the program, Woolstenhulme said, as privatized driver's education programs allow students to receive their license quicker and around the same price (the district's after-school program is $50 cheaper than the five private instructors in town). 

The issue was raised for discussion after the parents of a physically impaired Thunder Ridge High School student asked the school to implement modifications and new hand controls to the school's driver's ed car so the student could learn to drive. 

The installation cost for the hand controls was close to $3,000, District 93 Chief Financial Officer Guy Wangsgard said. 

Woolstenhulme said cutting the program isn't a "cost-saving measure." 

"It's just a question of: 'is it still a viable program to provide for students when only 3 percent are participating in it,'" Woolstenhulme said. "And how long will we continue to support it." 

Woolstenhulme added that as long as teachers are interested in teaching it, and students are using the program, it will continue — though he said he wanted to create a discussion about whether there's long-term sustainability for the program. 

Jenkins and trustee Amy Landers defended keeping the program, with Landers saying that her daughter received a more comprehensive driving examination through the school system.

"I know, for my daughter, it felt like it took an inordinate amount of time to get through the program, which was super frustrating, but I do feel like she learned a lot more than my other two daughters in the private sector," Landers said.

Superintendent Chuck Shackett said the program is expected to remain in place for the rest of the 2018-19 school year.

Idaho Falls School District 91 does not have driver's education in its curriculum. 

A lengthy bond discussion

After combing through the comments and feedback given by recent research groups, the board talked at length Wednesday about its next two surveys to get more research for a potential May bond. 

With tour groups of about 45 District 93 patrons looking at Hillcrest and Bonneville high schools in January, the board said it was important to get more feedback and research from the community — including conducting two surveys (an online survey and a phone survey) before hosting open houses.

The independent phone survey could cost $16,000 to complete. The money could be pulled from the Budget of District Administration, Wangsgard said. Wangsgard said the budget isn't aimed toward any specific area and using it wouldn't exceed the board's budget.

"I think it is somewhat challenging to go out and ask our patrons to approve another bond this year, when we just approved one last year," Woolstenhulme said. "And if you want to make sure you're on the right path, I think it's critical information to have."

"For 16,000 bucks, I'll make 400 phone calls," trustee Chad Dance quipped. 

Dance and Jenkins agreed that doing an additional, third-party survey was vital to gaining the patrons' trust.

Landers, though, expressed concern over the results and what they would mean for May's bond — which is expected to seek voter approval for $35 to $40 million for: expansions on Hillcrest and Bonneville high school's science classrooms; the construction of a new elementary school; and the remodeling of special education programs at Falls Valley and Mountain Valley elementary schools.

She speculated that if the response to the two surveys "is not good," there is a potential to push the bond back to August. 

"If we get the information back and it tells us were not able to pass this bond, I think we are better off waiting and doing it later," Dance said. 

"I think if the results are close ... looking at the patron group, we could pass, but let's say the survey comes back and it's not so great, we can maybe see what we have to do to educate our public," Landers responded. 

Luke O'Roark is a reporter for the Post Register. He can be reached at 208-542-6763. You can also follow him on Twitter: @LukeORoark 

Education Reporter

An education reporter interested in a variety of topics — basketball, television, hip hop, philosophy. Has been working at the Post Register for close to two years.

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