MIDDLETON — The Middleton School District, struggling to provide enough school space to a growing student population, is again bringing a bond before voters.

The district is requesting a $28.8 million bond in the August election to fund a new elementary school — a 15 percent increase from the $25 million bond measure that failed in March.

The previous bond fell 108 votes shy of the two-thirds’ approval needed to pass.

The newly proposed bond would pay to build a fourth elementary school, secure property for future developments, provide schools with new safety features and update Heights Elementary. Additional funds would go toward updating other district facilities, Superintendent Josh Middleton said.

The district is expecting to grow by 1,000 students in the next five years, from 4,000 students this year to 5,000 students in 2023, Middleton said, citing a 2017 demographic study completed by Davis Demographics.

As enrollment grows, Middleton said it’s important the district build an additional school to alleviate crowding — especially at Heights Elementary, which sits at 152 percent capacity with 601 students.

“There’s a really strong possibility that this upcoming school year I am not going to have a classroom for the music program — they’ll probably be shifted to the cafeteria,” Heights Elementary Principal Kim Atkinson said. “We may have to eliminate our computer lab to make room for additional classrooms.”

The district’s property tax levy rate is projected to stay at $495 per $100,000 of taxable property value. The rate would stay the same because of the increased number of homeowners to share bond cost, the rising property values and the district’s ability to pay down its interest-free bond for the high school.

Of the $495 levy rate in 2019, $96 would go toward the new bond, $283 would go toward the existing bond and $116 would go toward the supplemental levy, according to the school district website.

The district last passed a bond in 2008 of $51.9 million to fund the construction of Middleton High School.

The new elementary school proposed in the August bond measure would be built on 15 acres on Purple Sage Road, but construction wouldn’t begin for another year, Middleton said.

The district has three elementary schools — Heights, Mill Creek and Purple Sage. Heights and Mill Creek are both over capacity.

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BOND INCREASE

The bond increase stems from a number of reasons and accounts for construction inflation in the Treasure Valley.

“We just have to be prepared,” Middleton said.

The primary idea behind the increase comes from the “safety component” added to the plans, motivated by the number of school shootings that took place across the country earlier this year. Should funds be left over, the district would address other improvement projects.

“We realized we really need to retrofit all of our school buildings with a controlled access point and upgrade our camera systems and just really improve our security,” Middleton said.

The superintendent said bringing equity to the schools is another priority.

Because Heights Elementary is the oldest school in the district, Atkinson said the bond would fund air conditioning installation in the gym, roof construction to fix leaks, and outdoor work to prevent water seepage, among other improvements.

“We are so over capacity right now and for us to not have that (bond) puts us at least another year out,” Atkinson said. “It’s becoming quite the puzzle in trying to figure out where I’m going to educate the kids. I am using every space in the school right now — under the stairs, in the cafeteria.”

The district plans to conduct additional community forums to help educate residents on the bond before the Aug. 28 election.

“We want to help get the information out more than we did last time,” Middleton said.

Although the bond did not pass in March, Middleton said he has high expectations for the upcoming election.

“I feel really good about going into August and that the community is going to support this, as well as more people are going to get out and vote,” Middleton said. “The lesson we really learned was every vote really counts.”

Savannah Cardon is the Caldwell reporter for the Idaho Press. Follow her on Twitter, @savannahlcardon, or reach her at 208-465-8172.