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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho Voices

Schools hang tough

Leaner districts ready for fall

Bryan Martin, director of facilities for Coeur d’Alene School District, said he is pleased with the face-lift happening at Lakes Middle School. He led a tour of the school on (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Bryan Martin, director of facilities for Coeur d’Alene School District, said he is pleased with the face-lift happening at Lakes Middle School. He led a tour of the school on (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

School hallways in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls will soon be filled with the pitter-patter of little – and not so little – feet, as school begins Sept. 8.

Both districts are facing financial challenges, but are heading into the new academic year with positive expectations. Edie Brooks, chairwoman of the Coeur d’Alene School District board of directors, said the district handled cuts in the most optimum way.

“We’re looking forward with optimism,” Brooks said. “Through attrition and retirement there were no layoffs.”

Brooks said the district is at the minimum level of teachers it must have to comply with state law. Support staff such as janitorial personnel and librarians all kept their jobs.

“Every budget was cut some,” Brooks said. “Everyone tightened their belt.”

Stimulus funds brought in funding for special education, loosening up funds for other programs.

The Lakes Middle School remodeling project is the big news for the Coeur d’Alene School district. After voters twice rejected levies to replace the aging school, $5 million left over from a 2002 levy was used to renovate Lakes.

Most of the classrooms are now 900 square feet, up from 600. State-of-the-art technology throughout the building includes a sound system to aid studentswho are hearing impaired. All the classrooms now have a sink and water fountain, built-in cabinetry and teacher’s desks, and new windows.

Bryan Martin, director of maintenance and facilities for the district, is happy with the “new” Lakes. He is particularly pleased that the building – built in 1954 – has a new HVAC system that uses heat pumps with gas backup.

“They’re really neat – very, very efficient,” Martin said.

Martin said carbon dioxide sensors have been installed throughout.

“When it comes to air quality, Lakes will be one of the healthiest schools in the district,” he said.

He said the new HVAC system qualifies the district for a rebate from Avista. All of the lights are on motion detectors, and a new security system includes interior and exterior cameras. Lakes also added an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant elevator.

Sorensen Magnet School for the Arts and Humanities, also an older building, became Coeur d’Alene’s first magnet school in 2007. The school is currently being brought up to the Americans with Disabilities Act standards, including the addition of an elevator. Sorensen also has been expanded to the sixth grade, making it a K-6 school.

Lakes will be the first middle school in Coeur d’Alene to become a magnet school. The focus will be on health, science and art.

“How they integrate art and science is amazing,” Brooks said. “They have to diagram everything.”

Students at Lakes will wear uniforms, choosing from seven different colors of logo shirts that are paired with denim, khaki, brown, navy or black pants, capris, shorts or skirts for the girls, at knee length or below.

Coeur d’Alene’s two high schools, Lake City and Coeur d’Alene, also are enacting changes. Previously both schools offered the International Baccalaureate program, but in order to cut costs, the program now will be offered only at Lake City, with Coeur d’Alene offering Advanced Placement classes.

“People need to know when they register their kids for high school, they can choose (between the two high schools), but the student has to stay there,” Brooks said.

Seniors at Coeur d’Alene High who were in the baccalaureate program will be able to complete the curriculum at their school, however.

Brooks added that parents can request their child go to any school in the district, as long as there is room. Since the district is full, Brooks is optimistic it will meet average daily attendance, the catalyst for state funding.

With the overload of students in northern Coeur d’Alene, Hayden Elementary, built in the 1930s, has been remodeled and converted into the Hayden Kinder Center.

Approximately 300 5-year-olds are expected to attend the new center. The school will serve students from Atlas, Ramsey and Skyway elementary schools.

Pam Pratt, director of elementary education, said the center will try to accommodate other kindergarteners if there is room, and that kinder-plus, a before- and after-school program, will be available.

“This way we will have nine kindergarten teachers who will collaborate together,” Pratt said.

In Post Falls, Superintendent Jerry Keane said things are tight based on overall state appropriations and budget reductions, but the district has no major projects going on and no redistribution of students, so Keane and his administration plan to hold the course and keep a close eye on the budget.

Keane said the district will focus on professional development and the formation of a districtwide committee to work on a new strategic plan.

“The good news is we believe we can deliver all the student projects we had and focus on student achievement,” he said.

At Post Falls High School, the Freshman Link orientation program continues as part of a project called Connecting the Dots, which Keane said has been quite successful. Freshmen will each have a mentor to help them transition into high school.

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