July 13, 2008

Burley Outlines Proposed School Improvements

By Damon Hunzeker, The Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho

Jul. 13--If the Cassia County bond issue is passed, it will significantly alter Burley's school system -- especially at the elementary level. Even the high school, built only 10 years ago, will benefit from the tax increase.

The high school will be expanded on both ends. A new science laboratory and science classroom, in addition to a storage area, will be added to the southeast corner adjacent to the King Fine Arts Center. Four new general-education classrooms will be added to the northeast corner.

Both of these additions were anticipated when the campus was built. The areas of expansion are already equipped with electricity and plumbing hubs on the foundation walls.

Superintendent Gaylen Smyer said the district expected a need to eventually expand during the original phase of construction but didn't know when. Enrollment grew quickly, though.

"We had 980 students at the high school this year in a facility built for 800 students," he said. "We'll have over 1,000 next year."

The increased attendance isn't the only reason for the expansion.

"Beginning with the 2009 freshmen class, there are increased science and math requirements, so that's part of it," Smyer said. Later, deliberately using two negatives to make a positive, he said: "But we've not been doing nothing to address overcrowding."

Last year, the school enlisted students form the Cassia Regional Technical Center's construction program to build two classrooms tucked between the east and west wings of campus.

Burley Junior High requires the least extensive renovation -- turning an existing classroom into a computer lab.

"It will provide additional instructional opportunities, but it will also expedite the testing process," Smyer said.

Pending approval of the bond proposal, Burley will have three elementary schools: Dworshak and two new facilities.

Dworshak, built in the early 1950s, was determined by the school board's engineers to be structurally sound and free of the deterioration normally found in buildings from that era.

The school's student population will be reduced and sent to the new schools -- but the building, some renovations notwithstanding, will remain.

The antiquated heating system -- for which modern parts are incompatible -- will be replaced, and an off-street student drop-off area will be constructed.

"We have a ton of traffic congestion on 19th Street," Smyer said. "This will alleviate a lot of those problems and correct some safety issues by dropping children off away from the street."

White Pine Intermediate School shares some of Dworshak's traffic and drop-off problems.

"Right now, we have kids crossing the street and doing all kinds of unsafe things," Smyer said.

Meanwhile, Mountain View Elementary will be remodeled and re-designated as an alternative school.

Regarding the two additional elementary schools proposed, the district isn't sure where to put them.

"The board is still exploring possibilities about that," Smyer said.

Damon Hunzeker can be reached at 208-420-4697 or [email protected]

How to get involved This is the second article in a series about the needs of Cassia County schools. The district is asking voters to approve a $44.5 million bond issue on Aug. 28. Public meetings will be held at 7 p.m. July 15 at the Burley, Malta and Oakley high schools and at Declo Elementary. Open houses at affected schools will be held from 5 to

7 p.m. July 22 and 29. A calculator to determine how much individual property taxes would increase can be found at www.sd151.k12.id.us/.


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