March 25, 1998 in Nation/World

Bond Appears To Have Passed By One Vote District Will Build A New High School

Heather Lalley And Laura Shireman S Staff writer

Post Falls Superintendent Dick Harris got a $17.97 million birthday present Tuesday when voters approved a bond issue to build a high school by the narrowest of votes.

At Post Falls High School, a group of about 50 people clapped and whistled as preliminary totals were announced.

With all seven precincts reporting, 66.67 percent of voters supported a $17.97 million bond to pay for a new high school.

A second option, which would have raised $2.89 million for an athletic complex and heating repairs at the existing high school, was supported by fewer than two-thirds of voters.

District officials said turnout beat the record of 5,138 voters who cast ballots in an October 1996 bond election.

The bond needed a supermajority of 66-2/3 percent to pass. Four similar bonds have failed by narrow margins since 1985.

The 20-year bond would raise the rate of taxes per $1,000 of assessed value by $1. The current rate for the Post Falls School District is $4.57 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Post Falls Superintendent Dick Harris said he does not know what the district will do if the bond does not pass.

“We’ve been concentrating so hard on getting information out and getting this passed we haven’t done a lot of thinking on the administrative staff about what to do if it doesn’t pass,” Harris said.

Linda Jessop, who voted against the bond, said the district’s price tag is too high.

“I just want a basic high school built, and it shouldn’t cost that much money,” Jessop said. “I would rather have the quality of teaching drawing people to the community than pretty buildings,” she said.

“We’re sick of these politicians living on our hard-earned money, increasing their salaries and building pretty buildings.”

But others in the district say the overcrowding and poor conditions at school facilities must stop.

“The community needs to build a new school. Period,” Post Falls High School history teacher Dennis Amende said after he cast his ballot.

Amende expressed frustration with the supermajority required to pass the bond. “The is one of the few things where 36 people can tell 64 what they’re doing,” he said.

Students say the schools are too crowded and double-shifting is not the answer.

“We definitely need the school,” said April Shuck, a 16-year-old junior at Post Falls High. “We’re going to keep pushing until it passes. Many elderly people have a hard time voting for it because it raises taxes. They were given a decent education, now it’s our turn.”

The district began double-shifting at the middle school in September to ease overcrowding.

The schedule sends half of the school’s students to school from 7 a.m. to 12:18 p.m., and the other half from 12:30 p.m. to 5:48 p.m.

Two months after double-shifting began, 13-year-old Nick Scherling was killed by a drunken driver while walking home in the dark following the afternoon shift.

Many blamed his death on double-shifting, and parents and administrators handed out reflective lights to students as a safety precaution.

Sixth-grader Laurel Booth said she worried that if the bond fails, she and her classmates will have to double-shift at the high school and another student could be killed.

“If they have to double-shift, then it (the accident) might happen to one of us,” Booth said.

Nick’s father, Mark, said it was difficult to go back to his son’s school Tuesday to cast his vote for the bond.

“This is very tough to walk into the school my son loved,” Scherling said.

“To walk in there and know he’s not there anymore is a little tough. I wait for him to come home from school, and I wait for him to smile and say, ‘I love you, dad.”’

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo Graphic: Just barely passing

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