For the fourth time in six years, the Freeman School District will attempt to pass a bond for building upgrades and safety improvements. Two previous attempts in 2002 and one in 2005 failed, with the second attempt coming within 1.5 percent of the needed 60 percent approval.
The district has elementary, middle and high schools clustered at Highway 27 and Jackson Road. The elementary school has had no major remodeling since its construction in 1970. The story is the same at the high school, built in 1957. The building had additions in 1978 and 1989, but the core of the building hasn’t seen improvement.
A $19.5 million bond is on the May 20 ballot. The 20-year bond would cost an additional $1.59 per $1,000 in assessed home value, on top of the current 91 cents per $1,000 bond that will expire this year. The district qualifies for $10.5 million in matching funds from the state, making up the difference for the $30 million project.
The elementary school faces a host of problems. Custodians have to pop out ceiling tiles in cold weather to allow heat to circulate so the water pipes don’t freeze. Windows are single-pane. Each classroom has its own exterior door, and the doors can’t be locked during the day because students go to and from portable classrooms and to the middle school, which houses a shared library.
In return, middle school students must travel to the elementary for lunch in the only cafeteria, which is really a gym.
The construction plan calls for a new cafeteria to connect the adjoining middle and elementary schools. The plan also calls for a bus parking area – essentially a giant carport – next to the elementary school.
Four classrooms would be added to the elementary school and a second floor housing between four and six classrooms would be added to the high school. The high school would get a new gym, with one of the old gyms converted to a weight-lifting/shop area. Both schools would also get extensive remodeling, bringing them up to code. The schools don’t have sprinkler systems and aren’t accessible by people with disabilities.
Rough road ahead
Plans for a Rathdrum asphalt plant are creating an uproar on the prairie, where neighbors say they worry about noise, possible health impacts and damage to property values.
Neighbors have been rallying to stop the asphalt plant and expansion of Coeur d’Alene Paving’s gravel pit.
Coeur d’Alene Paving is seeking approval for two plans. The first would allow the company to swap the zoning on 20 acres of agricultural land with the zoning on 20 acres of adjacent mining land. That would give the company a contiguous 50-acre site just off Highway 53, west of Rathdrum.
The second request is to build an asphalt plant on the company’s existing 30-acre site.
Switching the zoning makes sense because it would cut down on truck traffic between the two sites, said Phill Weist, Coeur d’Alene Paving safety manager.
The property the company wants to expand its pit onto also neighbors fewer residences than the land it wants to swap, Weist explained.
But in March, Hearing Examiner Lisa Key recommended against the zoning swap.
In her report, Key said the change would benefit one property owner at the expense of others and it is inconsistent with the Kootenai County Comprehensive Plan’s rural residential designation for the property.
Key also said the number of residences neighboring each 20-acre site wasn’t relevant because those living next to the property already zoned for mining knew that and those next to the agricultural property may have purchased with that zoning designation in mind.
– Amy Cannata