White Pine Charter School is seeking to add new temporary classrooms at a second location as it begins rolling out a new STEM high school.
On Thursday afternoon, Ammon City Council voted unanimously to approve a conditional use permit that would allow the free public charter school to begin teaching students in a log building and four modular classrooms at the corner of 1st Street and Hitt Road.
The modular buildings and cabin will include eight classrooms and hold a little more than 150 junior high students and teachers, including the charter school’s first-ever class of ninth-graders.
Principal Jeremy Clarke said the new classes are part of the school’s long-term goal to create its own STEM-focused high school and provide a complete K-12 education to eastern Idaho students. The school plans to add an additional high school grade every year, meaning the first class of seniors would graduate in 2023.
“It’s kind of the tested way to grow your own grades since these will be students that we’ve already had and are used to our academic standards,” Clarke said.
A large part of the renovation and construction of the new modules was covered by an $800,000 federal grant for public charter schools that was awarded by Bluum, a Boise-based statewide nonprofit charter school support entity, and Idaho’s Communities of Excellence in May.
Ammon City Planner Cindy Donovan said the wooden building at the property had been used by schools in the past, which made it easier for White Pine to apply for permits to use it as a temporary location. White Pine will also be building a road connecting the four modules to a nearby road and parking lot.
Clarke said the “park-like setting” around the school, located a few minutes from the main White Pine building, was also part of the appeal.
“We’re excited to mesh those two together, learning about technology and STEM fields in a setting that feels natural, comfortable and welcoming to the students,” Clarke said.
The conditional use permit will only last for two years, by which point Clarke hopes the school will have begun construction on a permanent high school. He said the school board has looked at a number of sites and the final location may not be at the same site that was just approved.
Two of the modular classrooms have already been constructed and are waiting at the factory pending the council’s decision. Clarke said the goal was to have all the classrooms ready to open by Aug. 2 with the fall semester starting on the 22nd.