Some of the oldest, most outdated schools in Coeur d’Alene will be renovated over the next three years if voters in the Coeur d’Alene School District approve a $32.7 million bond measure this month.
It’s one of three school measures on the Aug. 28 ballot in Kootenai County. Lakeland Joint School District is seeking voter approval of a five-year maintenance levy, and Kootenai Joint School District is proposing a $2 million bond measure to upgrade its wastewater system.
The Coeur d’Alene district proposes major renovations of Borah, Bryan, Sorensen and Winton elementary schools and Canfield Middle School. More than $25 million would be spent modernizing these schools, including adding gymnasiums, removing portable classrooms and upgrading heating and ventilation systems.
The bonds also would finance mechanical improvements at Coeur d’Alene and Lake City high schools, Hayden Meadows and Fernan elementary schools, and Hayden Kinder Center. Other schools would get technology upgrades.
The major remodels outlined in the proposed bond would bring the oldest schools up to the quality students experience elsewhere in the district. Winton Elementary, built during Prohibition, has single-pane windows, old radiators and stairs that make it inaccessible for children in wheelchairs.
“To me it’s about making sure that we’re not the school district that treats its downtown schools different than our uptown schools,” school board Chairman Tom Hamilton said. “Improvements are needed simply to ensure the health and safety and a quality learning environment for our kids.”
Some schools have adjacent classrooms with no hallways. “So literally for kids to go from one class to another, they’ve got to walk through three other classrooms to do it,” Hamilton said.
Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems are antiquated as well.
“It’s hard to learn when it’s 98 degrees in the classroom and it’s hard to learn when it’s 55 degrees in the classroom, and some of these schools have a hard time maintaining better temperatures than that,” Hamilton said.
Taxpayers would not see their property taxes increase if the bond is approved because two other school taxes are expiring: a 20-year Lake City High School bond and a two-year levy to help build the Kootenai Technical Education Campus, set to open next month on the Rathdrum Prairie.
The school district estimates the owner of a $200,000 home would pay $49 annually to pay off the 13-year bond. The anticipated interest rate on the bonds is 2.65 percent.
A two-thirds supermajority vote is required for bond measures to pass in Idaho.
Lakeland district levy
The Lakeland district, covering northern Kootenai County, is proposing a five-year tax levy to raise $800,000 a year for new equipment and furniture, computers and buses, and to remodel and repair school buildings, improve energy efficiency, and enhance building safety and security.
In March the district fell 47 votes short of passing a larger, 10-year levy for upkeep of buildings and equipment.
The proposed five-year levy rate is 12 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value.
In the past decade the district built two schools and expanded others. More money is needed each year to maintain the district’s 11 schools, the oldest of which dates to 1937, officials say.
The levy for capital expenses “is how we keep them useful and extend their life, but it’s also how we keep our students in the right learning environment and how we provide for energy efficiency, security in the buildings,” said Tom Taggart, director of district business and operations.
The district also buys three or four new buses each year to maintain its fleet, and in the classroom the district wants to keep up with advancing technology.
“Ten-year-old computers on teachers’ desks is not an option anymore,” Taggart said.
The total taxes collected by the Lakeland district will decline next year, even if voters approve the new levy request. That’s because other school levies are expiring and the district will collect less for previously approved construction bonds.
The district raised nearly $7.85 million from property taxes last school year, and next year it would raise about $6.9 million, including the new levy, Taggart said.
A 55 percent majority is required for the levy to pass.
Kootenai district bond
The tiny Kootenai district near Harrison has proposed a $2 million bond measure to improve the wastewater collection and lagoon treatment system for its three schools.
The 35-year-old lagoons have come close to overflowing in recent years, posing an environmental threat to a local stream that feeds into Black Lake.
The district proposes repaying the bond over 10 years. It would replace an expiring $3 million bond for the district’s new school. The estimated annual tax for a $100,000 home is $38 a year.