Decision time is here for new school

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Patrons of Coeur d’Alene School District, your silence is deafening.

Speak up, please.

District officials are on the cusp of committing to a new elementary school as part of a bond measure overwhelmingly approved by voters in March 2017. According to literature distributed by the district prior to that vote, the $35.5 million bond included $11.535 million for a new elementary school in the northwest part of the district. But in the 15 months since then, things haven’t gone as planned.

• Two key figures in selling voters on the bond and ensuring its fulfillment, the district’s superintendent and its finance director, left.

• Property values skyrocketed, putting some potential parcels for the new school out of reach while others were quickly snapped up.

• And all the while, construction costs have been going up in the range of 7 percent to 10 percent annually, meaning the longer the delay, the more the project will cost — and might buy less.

Faced with these unfavorable dynamics, district officials voted Feb. 12 to build the new school on a site where a smaller and older school building now stands at Hayden Avenue and Government Way in Hayden, to open in the fall of 2019. Yet four more months have passed and the district and city of Hayden are still working out details, making an opening date in 2020 more likely.

Meanwhile, a favorable parcel in the northwest part of the district, on Prairie Avenue between Ramsey and Atlas roads, was purchased by the district about a month ago. The intent was to save that land for a future school somewhere down the road, but some conscientious citizens are now asking, why wait, especially with the addition of new neighborhoods in the northwest part of the district? Why not build the new school there and save the Hayden property for future sale or school development? Their logic is that the Prairie property would cost a little less on a net basis, construction could probably start sooner than on the Hayden property which could get the school opened earlier, and an important bond promise on the northwest location would be fulfilled.

This coming Monday, the school board is likely to chart a course in one direction or the other — the Hayden or the Prairie site. Only one new school will be built.

Arguments for the Prairie site are, in the newspaper editorial board’s opinion, more compelling than are the arguments for building on the Hayden site. The longer the decision-making process is strung out, the longer it will be before serious overcrowding is addressed. It’s our belief that building on Prairie is the more prudent course not just now, but for the foreseeable future — and an important promise will be kept.

But that’s just one opinion. What you think, district patrons, needs to be heard by school board members. Send your comments to board clerk Lynn Towne at: ltowne@cdaschools.org

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