CALDWELL — Vallivue High School expects a bump in enrollment of about 100 students per year for the “foreseeable future,” Superintendent Pat Charlton said, but the problem is, the district’s only high school is already at capacity.
To combat overcrowding, Charlton said the district is in the “pre-bond” or preliminary stage of pursuing a $50 million bond election resolution to build a new high school.
Charlton said the committee estimates a new 1,800-student high school will cost about $50 million — twice the price of the first high school built in 1996.
He said the committee will ask the school board for the resolution at the Feb. 12 regularly scheduled meeting. If the board agrees to continue with the process, the bond election will be May 21.
In preliminary research, the committee found that the average home in the Vallivue School District is worth about $114,000, so a successful bond election would result in a property tax increase of about $39.90 per year, or about $3.30 per month.
“We actually just got a survey back (Tuesday) that shows right now, 72 percent of people surveyed (in the district), understood that Vallivue High School was overcrowded and would support a second high school,” Charlton said. “The number of people who support raising taxes, it drops down to 60 percent. In our case, we have to get 66.6 percent approval to pass the bond. Our challenge to increase that number.”
The best-case scenario, assuming the board allows the bond resolution and it passes by vote, would be a new high school opening in fall 2016 on Linden and Madison roads, where the district owns 65 acres.
Idaho’s sixth-largest high school — based on student enrollment — was built to accommodate 1,200 students. It was remodeled in 2000 and now holds about 1,800 students, with the use of two portable buildings. Each portable has two classrooms, at about 70 students per unit.
Vallivue High competes at the Idaho High School Activities Association 5A level — the state’s largest — but the two schools would compete at 4A should a new high school be built. Charlton said that is not a motivating factor, but does allow for more student involvement for some activities within IHSAA and at the schools.
Richard Brulotte, principal at Vallivue High, said students and teachers continue to work well under the pressures of overcrowding. Most classes have about 33 students — some more, some less. Brulotte said ideally every classroom would have, at least, fewer than 30 students.
“If you have five kids more per hour, at six hours (class periods) a day, that’s 30 more students’ (work) to grade,” Brulotte said. “... Any time you increase the workload they have, it’s just more time.”
The few extra students in each classroom adds at least an hour to the teacher’s day — possibly more, depending on subject, he said.
The school cafeteria has been expanded once and is simply “overloaded,” even with two lunch periods.
“Our lunchroom is absolutely full,” Brulotte said. “Imagine 900 kids in a single lunchroom.”
Students cannot leave campus during the lunch hour because of safety concerns. The school’s location on Homedale Road and Montana Avenue in south Caldwell is too far away from food establishments in Caldwell.
“If (students) drive the speed limit and they’re safe, they truly cannot drive from here to downtown Caldwell and back in the 30 minutes,” Brulotte said.
He believes the community has been supportive of the district in the past and doesn’t see that changing soon.
Charlton said opening a new school would create jobs at all levels, from construction of the building to staffing the school. Students would basically be split in half — each high school would enroll somewhere in the range of 1,000 students initially.
The process of naming the school and deciding a mascot would be part of the final stages. Students who would attend the school will be involved in the process, he said.