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Middle School Crowding Reaches Crisis Officials Consider Drastic Measures After Failure Of Two Bond Levies

Overcrowding in Coeur d’Alene middle schools has the school district weighing drastic options, from discontinuing kindergarten to building an entire school out of portable classrooms.

The short-term options include moving sixth grade to the elementary schools in place of kindergarten and double-shifting at the middle schools.

The school district is in a crisis situation because the last two attempts to pass a bond levy for a new middle school have failed, said Ann Smart, head of the district’s Long-Range Planning Committee.

“We cannot look to the future without acknowledging the present,” she told the Coeur d’Alene School Board Tuesday. She showed graphs, using an overhead projector, that depict the middle schools in dire straits.

While the high schools have space to spare and elementary schools have another year or two before they will be completely full, the middle schools are using storage rooms as classrooms.

Combined capacity of the middle schools is 1,600 students. This year, however, more than 2,000 students attended the two schools.

“It continues to be a critical space problem,” Smart said.

The Long-Range Planning Committee is suggesting the district attempt to pass a special plant facilities levy - a pay-as-you-go levy - which could raise $2 million to $4 million a year. Such a levy needs only 55 percent voter approval, assuming the levy rate stays under $2 per $1,000 in assessed property value.

It could take two to three years to raise enough money for the middle school, which is estimated to cost $6 million.

The committee asked the board to consider several short-term options to create space until a new school is built.

Those options are:

Hold school year-round, staggering student schedules to fit all students in existing buildings;

Double-shift, so half the student body attends in the morning and half attends in the afternoon;

Move the eighth grade to the high schools;

Create a centralized sixth-grade school;

Create a centralized kindergarten school or discontinue kindergarten altogether (Idaho schools are not required to provide kindergarten classes);

Lease private classroom space.

“What we’re looking at is drastic,” said Bruce Cyr, a member of the Long-Range Planning Committee. “There are no options that are nice for me and my family. … We will be in crisis mode for two to three to five years.”

The administration tentatively is planning a plant facilities levy next spring. Administration officials advised against holding an election this fall, when property owners find out how much they’ll owe in taxes next year.

, DataTimes

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