August 12, 2014 in City, Idaho

CdA School Board jumps at Boys & Girls Club proposal

By The Spokesman-Review
Kathy Plonka photoBuy this photo

Seven-year-old Colton Gookin, right, jumps after tossing his miniature parachute along with Alejandro Flores, 8, left, and Andon Brandt, 9, at the Boys & Girls Club of Kootenai County Jordan Johnson Center in Post Falls on Monday.
(Full-size photo)

The Boys & Girls Club is extending its reach in Kootenai County with a plan to build a club on the east side of Coeur d’Alene.

The nonprofit organization already expanded its club in Post Falls, and the popularity of after-school programs there has surged since the building opened early last year.

The Coeur d’Alene School Board voted unanimously Monday night to move forward with a proposal to lease vacant land next to Lakes Magnet Middle School for construction of a new club there. The school district will ask a judge to confirm its legal authority to lease three-tenths of an acre to the Boys & Girls Club for $1 a year.

“This couldn’t happen fast enough for me,” school board member Tom Hamilton said.

Joanne Cree said she’s a big fan of the Boys & Girls Club after seeing what her two children get out of it. “The programs are excellent, and they’re so economically feasible,” Cree said.

The Lakes school site, northeast of downtown at 15th Street and Hastings Avenue, is the perfect spot, said Ryan Davis, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Kootenai County.

“It’s being where the kids are and being in the neighborhoods,” Davis said Monday. “It’s an ideal location for us because that’s definitely the population we feel doesn’t necessarily have access to some of the services that other schools in other areas do. So we looked at it as a prime opportunity to serve kids in that area.”

About 80 students a day go to the Boys & Girls Club in temporary space at Sorensen Magnet School of the Arts and Humanities, a Coeur d’Alene elementary school. The new club at Lakes easily could serve over 300 kids a day, Davis said.

The Boys & Girls Club aims to keep kids active, safe, engaged and away from risky behavior. The recreational, social and educational services can have a profound effect in lower-income neighborhoods that lack alternatives for young people, the organization says.

The Coeur d’Alene club would serve children 6 and older from schools where 64 percent to 81 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

The school district would get to use the new building for educational and recreational needs during school hours – a bonus for Lakes, which lacks a second gymnasium like the other two middle schools have.

“We obviously jumped at the opportunity and said it looks like this can be a very good fit,” Davis said.

“This is the very, very early stages of seeing a permanent location of Boys & Girls Club in Coeur d’Alene,” he said. “We have looked long and hard in that area to put something together. … This is simply the beginning of making this happen.”

Once the lease agreement is approved, the organization will start raising money for the project. No budget or timeline has been set, but, Davis said, “We feel very, very confident with the community support that we’ll be able to raise the funds in a relatively short amount of time.”

The 11,000-square-foot Post Falls club, which opened in January 2013, cost $1.7 million. It recently was expanded by 800 square feet to provide more room for a teen center.

Between 200 and 225 students a day visit the club after school, and that number swells to 275 to 300 in the summer.

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