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Businesses check out schools

SATURDAY, SEPT. 30, 2006

Representatives from a company considering setting up shop in North Idaho toured Coeur d’Alene High School Friday afternoon to get a feel for what the school district has to offer and how it compares to the schools back home.

This practice is very common for companies considering new locations, said Steve Griffitts, president of Jobs Plus, a company that works to recruit new businesses to the area.

“Overall quality of life must include excellence in education, and great companies want to be in areas where an emphasis on education is made,” said Griffitts, who coordinated the tour with the Coeur d’Alene School District.

The quality of local schools ranks right up there with all the other factors companies look at when considering a move, such as the cost of living and the availability of affordable housing, Griffitts said. Some companies will request to visit schools in different districts for comparison purposes, he said.

Buck Knives arranged tours of schools in Post Falls when the company was considering moving there a few years ago. Post Falls School District Superintendent Jerry Keane said Eric Keck, the newly hired city administrator, talked with him extensively about the schools in Post Falls and what his children might be facing when they start.

“That to me is a sign of good leadership on a business or anybody’s part,” Keane said.

When transferring a number of employees to any area, it just makes good sense for company leaders to want to check out the schools ahead of time, said Post Falls Assistant Superintendent Becky Ford.

“They’re doing their homework,” Ford said.

Up in the Sandpoint area, the trend of businesses touring the schools before moving in isn’t as prevalent because not that many new businesses are coming to the area, said Mary Van Asperen, executive assistant to the superintendent of the Lake Pend Oreille School District.

But when big companies like Sandpoint-based Coldwater Creek are hiring new executives, they’ll often request tours of Sandpoint High School or one of the other schools for the same reason new companies want to tour Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Rathdrum schools, she said.

Friday’s tour of Coeur d’Alene High School involved about 15 representatives from a Southern California company. Griffitts won’t reveal the name of the company until its relocation to North Idaho is a done deal.

Three Coeur d’Alene High School administrators spoke with the company representatives for about 45 minutes, describing the school’s academic offerings.

Much attention focused on the new international baccalaureate program, an intensive, two-year diploma program for high school juniors and seniors. Coeur d’Alene and Lake City high schools are the first public schools in Idaho to offer the program.

Two company employees commented on the program as they were leaving the school, praising it for its global focus. Others praised the school’s promotion of professional-technical education for students not interested in the four-year college experience.

The employees were also interested in the prevalence of gangs in the Coeur d’Alene School District, something Griffitts said was one of the biggest questions they had, being from an area where gangs are common.

“This is a huge question, and it’s a great answer,” Griffitts said before school athletics director Larry Schwenke informed the group that gangs are virtually nonexistent in the area.

One woman said the differences between Coeur d’Alene High School and the schools in her area were tremendous.

“In a good way,” she said.


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