CALDWELL — Lisa Carriere’s eyes widened when she opened the door to her classroom at West Canyon Elementary one afternoon in December 2013.
“I was stunned,” Carriere said. “The first impulse was to start moving furniture.”
Water poured into her classroom from a burst pipe in the ceiling.
The flood ruined a printer, computer, teaching materials and left portions of her desk covered in a brown mush of ceiling tiles.
Carriere’s classroom flood wasn’t an isolated incident at the 44-year-old elementary school. The Press-Tribune heard three burst pipe stories during a recent tour.
“One of the biggest problems for us is definitely plumbing,” Principal Cindy Dodd said.
The school’s well water has low levels of arsenic, the toilets are hard to flush and the sprinkler system is ineffective.
“We pay someone to walk around all day to look for smoke or fire,” Dodd said.
The school hopes to fix these problems by asking voters in the Vallivue School District approve a $28 million bond March 10.
Upgrades to West Canyon are just one part of the Vallivue bond. It includes building a new $17 million elementary school, $2 million to buy additional property and $7 million in upgrades and renovations to five schools including West Canyon.
The bond requires a supermajority —66.7 percent — to pass.
“Originally, we weren’t planning on running a bond until we completed (Ridgevue) High School,” Vallivue Superintendent Pat Charlton said. “But after meeting with our elementary school principals — Central Canyon in particular — we realized we are running out of room.”
The number of students in the Vallivue School District has nearly doubled since 2002 when the student population was 3,852. Vallivue projects 7,787 students for the fall of 2015, which means more than 750 elementary students will learn in portable classrooms.
“That’s a whole school in portables,” Charlton said.
Portable or modular classrooms look like double-wide trailers plopped onto school parking lots and fields.
Students have to walk inside the main building to use the restroom, eat lunch or visit the library.
“We’ve had kids slip and fall on the ice,” Dodd said. “A little girl broke her elbow last winter.”
The portables also compromise the school’s safety plan.
Dodd wants to lock all the doors to her school except for the main entrance, but that would make it harder for students and teachers in the portables to get inside the building in an emergency.
And they pose challenges for students with disabilities.
For example, Nelda Reed has a student who uses a wheelchair.
Reed’s classroom door doesn’t have a handicapped accessible ramp, so her student has to interrupt the adjacent class to enter and exit the building.
She also worried about what this child would do if a fire or other emergency blocked the door to the ramp.
Reed wasn’t sure she could carry the student down the stairs.
Those are all good reasons to pass a bond, but former teacher Juvanne Martin has reservations.
The main one being it’s not clear how much she and her husband would have to pay.
They live on a fixed income, so every penny counts.
The district says the levy rate would remain at the 2014 rate of $5.82, but rising home prices mean people could face larger bills.
When Vallivue voters approved a $50 million bond in 2013, the estimated increase in the levy rate was said to translate into $40 per year for a home valued at $115,000.
The catch some people missed was that home values increased by about 15 percent.
“That’s what upset so many people,” said Joe Cox, the chief deputy assessor for Canyon County. “I got calls from folks so upset they wanted to tar and feather some people.”
Cox can’t determine what a person’s payment would be before March 10 because Canyon County won’t complete its assessment process until September.
“We typically would be very bashful about giving out numbers now,” Cox said.
Property values are on the rise, but Cox wouldn’t draw any conclusions beyond that.
A 5 percent increase in a home worth $200,000 today would add about $58 to a person’s annual bill while a 15 percent increase would add $174.
“I’ll be honest, my husband already voted no because of this issue,” Martin said. “I think the way they’ve got it written right now it’s going to fail.”
Student enrollment numbers for Vallivue School District:
2002 = 3,852
2003 = 4,138
2004 = 4,661
2005 = 4,853
2006 = 5,267
2007 = 5,945
2008 = 6,275
2009 = 6,544
2010 = 6,567
2011 = 6,763
2012 = 7,061
2013 = 7,260
2014 = 7,557
2015 = 7,787 (projection)