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District to tap state fund for unsafe school

Sat., Feb. 20, 2010

Plummer-Worley voters rejected bond measures

Following a failed school bond earlier this month, the Plummer-Worley School District has become the first in Idaho to access an emergency fund set up to replace or repair schools that pose an imminent danger.

Over the summer, the state’s Division of Building Safety reported that the roof of Lakeside Elementary School in Worley was in danger of collapsing and posed an imminent safety hazard. The district had tried three times to pass a school bond to replace the structure. Following the state’s finding, the district moved its youngest students to the middle school and to portable structures in Plummer.

State legislation required that the district run one more bond election before applying to the emergency fund. The bond election Feb. 2 garnered 50.4 percent approval, well short of the supermajority required. That allowed the district to apply for the state funds, which will be repaid through a tax levied on district property owners. The levy rate to pay for the new school will be $1.37 per $1,000 of assessed value, Superintendent Judi Sharrett said.

“We’re definitely planning to use the fund,” Sharrett said Friday. “They approved $11.3 million to build a new elementary school.”

Reaction has been mixed, Sharrett said. One parent delivered flowers to thank the superintendent for supporting a new building. Some patrons were concerned about the loan’s variable interest rate; others opposed a new building, she said.

And a vocal group in Worley has so strongly opposed building a school in Plummer, instead of repairing the one in Worley, that 350 signatures were collected on a petition to secede from the district and be annexed into the Coeur d’Alene School District. However, the Coeur d’Alene and Plummer-Worley school boards both denied that petition.

A hearing will be held on the matter March 16 in Worley with a state-appointed hearing officer, said Doyal Van Orman, a spokesman for the Save Our School group. That recommendation will be forwarded to the state Board of Education for a decision, he said.

Sharrett said she is aware of that group’s point of view and respects it. “But it’s not everybody’s point of view,” she said. Building the new school in Plummer makes sense, she said. The new school won’t be as close to U.S. Highway 95, and it would consolidate services in the small school district. With all three schools in Plummer, she said, services such as transportation and maintenance would be provided more efficiently.

Sharrett is hoping construction will begin this spring and be completed in January 2012. The school will be built on land the district owns in Plummer, near the middle school. Sharrett anticipates taxpayers will pay off the loan within 16 years.

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