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News >  Idaho

Annexation petition hits hurdle

Taryn Brodwater Staff writer

A hearing officer appointed by the Idaho Department of Education is recommending the state reject a petition to annex 21 square miles of the West Bonner School District into the Lakeland School District.

The recommendation came less than a week after the Lakeland School Board sent a letter to the state saying they “strongly oppose” the petition. Chairman Don Soltman said the school board was concerned the estimated 100 students joining the district could cause overcrowding at Spirit Lake Elementary and possibly at Timberlake Junior High.

The district is also concerned that new bus routes would have be added to accommodate the additional students.

Hearing Officer Edward Lockwood said in his recommendation that it was unclear if approval of the petition would serve “the best interests of all the children who may be affected” by the change.

Children in the proposed area of annexation live up to 25 miles from West Bonner schools and only 3 to 5 miles from Lakeland’s schools. Currently, the districts’ boundaries meet at the Kootenai-Bonner county line.

“In the winter months, children get on the school bus in the dark and may arrive home in the gathering twilight,” Lockwood wrote. He said some children use flashlights to light their way to and from the bus stop and, because of the long bus ride both ways, he said children must go a long time without using the restroom.

Those concerns are some of the reasons parent Tonya Reed began the petition, gathering signatures from neighbors who also support the annexation.

Though Lockwood acknowledged those concerns and others, he wrote that he opposed the petition for other reasons: The impact on students who have longstanding ties with the West Bonner district, possible overcrowding in Lakeland and a reduced tax base for West Bonner.

Reed said Thursday that she disagrees with Lockwood’s findings. She said supporters of the petition effort are planning to ask him to reconsider his recommendation. Reed said she also plans to circulate a “supplementary petition” to gather additional signatures in support of the change.

She said she hopes to present the supplementary petition to the State Board of Education at its October meeting; the board is expected to consider the petition and Lockwood’s findings. If the board approves, the issue would be decided by voters.

“We want to present this to the State Board of Education and show them there are so many people out here who are so for this,” she said. “It’s unbelievable.”

If the State Board approves an election, Reed said she’s confident the annexation would be approved by voters.

“For them not to send this to an election would be so astronomically stupid,” Reed said.

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