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Parents Wary Of Double-Shift Plan Children Walking To School In Dark, Effect On Sports, Families Are Concerns

Threats to their children’s safety weighed on the minds of parents who commented Monday on the possibility of double-shifting students at Post Falls Junior High School.

The school board, which is grappling with overcrowding in the fast-growing district, is considering a recommendation to move sixth graders into the school.

That would require splitting students into two shifts, possibly 6:50 a.m. to noon, and 12:30 to 5:30 p.m.

The idea was unpopular with many who testified Monday evening at Seltice Elementary School.

“We know it’s going to be dark,” said Kurt Soldheim.

“Is it worth the risk to our kids?”

Another parent asked if more students could be bused to get them safely to school in the dark.

She was told no, not unless the money could be found to pay for that. The state, which reimburses 85 percent of busing costs, normally will only do so for students who live more than 1.5 miles from school.

Others were worried about how double-shifting would affect sports participation.

“Probably pretty significantly,” answered assistant superintendent Jerry Keane.

He noted that buses might not be available to take kids to sporting events and other extra-curricular activities.

“We’re going to be running almost all of our fleet all day.”

Board chairman Kevin Schneidmiller emphasized that no decision has been made, or is even officially on the table.

But the board has heard from a 25-member committee of parents and teachers.

After looking at the problem for a year, they ruled out using more portable classrooms at the already-crowded elementary schools because education would suffer.

In the long run, the committee concluded, a new high school is needed to provide more classroom space.

But even if a school bond vote is approved to do that in 1996, it would take several years for the school to be built.

The recommendation to double-shift was a difficult one to make, said committee member Joni Hirst.

“This was an emotional decision. There were nights we didn’t sleep,” Hirst said, noting that her daughters would be affected by double-shifting.

“This was not my plan for them. … Part of me wants to go somewhere else.”

Post Falls had double-shifting in the 1970s. Some people present Monday evening had been through the system, and said it wasn’t a problem for them.

Others objected strongly, saying it disrupted their families and kept them from participating in extracurricular activities.

Enrollment in the district is 3,950 students.

The number of students has grown by 1,200 since 1980, but classroom space has grown by only 600.

The board will hold two more public meetings on the issue: at 7 p.m. Nov. 27 at Ponderosa Elementary, and 7 p.m. Dec. 4 at Prairie View Elementary.

Members expect to make a decision by February.

, DataTimes