A., break a campaign promise or B., fail to uphold your fiduciary responsibilities.
For Coeur d’Alene School District officials, it was going to be one or the other in deciding where to build a new elementary school: A., in the northwest area of the district, as promised to voters in last year’s bond election; or B., on a site the district already owns, so officials would not spend more money than they told voters they’d spend?
The answer is C. A third option has emerged and district officials might eventually be able to do both, one immediately and one a little further down the road.
On Monday, the school board voted 4-1 to build a new elementary school next to the old but still functional Hayden Lake Elementary, which is operating this year as Northwest Expedition Academy. At the same time, school board members said they intend to use other funds to purchase property for a new elementary school in the northwest quadrant of the district, to be developed later.
The idea is that District 271 patrons will eventually get two new elementary schools in the overcrowded north-northwest part of the district, and Monday’s decision also opens exciting possibilities for the city of Hayden and District 271 working together for civic benefit.
For months, officials have been agonizing over the lack of affordable property in the northwest part of District 271. It’s not the school board’s fault that property values soared beyond expectation after officials put together the budget for their bond issue. Complicating matters, the one alternative — building a new elementary school a few yards from an existing elementary school and just a few blocks down the street from Hayden Meadows Elementary — seems at best inefficient. So how do you minimize the mess?
First, learn the hard lessons of this challenge. Procure strategic property sooner rather than later so that years down the road, the district isn’t scrambling to find land for new schools.
Ensure that the new school on the old site significantly relieves overcrowding elsewhere, which was the reason so many patrons supported last year’s bond and levy. Look at possible cooperative efforts with Hayden that could lead to a community center or perhaps a senior center where Northwest Expedition Academy is now and provide something better than what exists today. What looked like a cramped camp of kids could become a cross-generational campus with all kinds of possibilities.
Some in the community, this newspaper’s editorial board included, would have preferred the imminent construction of one new elementary school in the northwestern portion of the district, but the combination of few land choices and high prices foiled that. Coeur d’Alene School District is making the best of a situation that is less than ideal, and if you can’t applaud that, maybe you can accept it with a frown.