COEUR d’ALENE — Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene School District board members heard public input on a possible boundary realignment at a joint school board meeting here Monday. The special meeting gave community members the chance to speak to the idea, which the two district superintendents have discussed as a possible solution to a recurring problem. Over the past five years, the State Board of Education has heard seven different appeals by residents in the Lakeland, Coeur d’Alene, and Post Falls School Districts regarding which school districts their kids would attend, said Coeur d’Alene School District Interim Superintendent Stan Olson.
“It wasn’t about school or system quality. It was about an expectation that seemed to make sense based on where one would assume boundaries were supposed to be. It didn’t work,” Olson said.
The current boundary lines between the Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene School Districts are gerrymandered around properties that were primarily vacant fields when the boundary was drawn, but now cut through large housing developments such as The Trails, The Landings, and Mill River. Rather than go before a hearing officer and the State Board of Education, Olson said it made more sense to get the districts together and determine a smarter way to set boundaries. Olson said the superintendents listened for months to what residents thought were the natural boundaries between the two school districts, and “time and time again, it was Huetter Road.”
The proposed change would make Huetter Road the primary boundary from W. Harvest Avenue south to E. Maplewood Avenue, then jog to the west until W. Mill River Court.
“The current boundary is an anachronism,” said Coeur d’Alene School District board member Dave Eubanks. “It was drawn when Pearl Harbor was bombed.”
Post Falls Superintendent Jerry Keane explained the tax rates for the two districts would be nearly identical in the coming year, so the most important remaining considerations would be the impact to students and the impact to each district’s tax revenues. Keane said any change should grandfather current students in to allow them to remain in their current schools if they so desired.
“Under any circumstances, we want stability for kids,” he said.
Coeur d’Alene School District board chairman Casey Morrisroe said Piper Jaffray had estimated the boundary change would immediately deduct $40 million in property value from the Coeur d’Alene School District. However, speakers for both districts noted the future value of the yet-undeveloped properties was difficult to estimate, and that seemingly inevitable growth in the region necessitated clear, simple boundary lines.
Residents and developers from The Trails, a community that did not exist when the current boundary lines were drawn, spoke up about the proposed change. A small portion of the community falls on the Post Falls side of the boundary, while the majority of the development falls in the Coeur d’Alene side.
Tori Meyers lives in The Trails and has a property split in two by the school district boundary line. Her neighbor’s property is slightly more on the Coeur d’Alene side of the line, and so kids from that household go to Coeur d’Alene schools while Meyers’ kids will go to Post Falls schools.
“I just don’t think that makes very much sense at all,” she said. Little League boundary lines put her in the Coeur d’Alene league and she socializes with families enrolled in Coeur d’Alene schools. “It would make sense for my son to be able to play outside with his friends and go to school with them,” she said.
Kami Shaw expressed the same concern. She and her family will move from Coeur d’Alene into The Trails soon and she wanted them to continue seeing their friends at school and on their rec league teams.
“I want to assure my kids that they can make friends. I want them to be able to make friendships that they can count on.”
Stephanie Meeks said her special needs child has been helped well by Coeur d’Alene schools, and that attending those schools is far more convenient for her than going to Post Falls schools. Architerra Homes COO Allen Dykes said his company valued the sense of community The Trails offered, and he supported the boundary change to Huetter Road. Gary Nystrom said he supported the change for the sake of students but was concerned about the loss of tax revenue, and accompanying tax hikes for property owners.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Keane explained the next step would be for each school board to decide whether it wanted to move forward with the boundary change, and if so, whether they preferred to put it to a public vote per Idaho code 33-308, or proceed without a vote in accordance with Idaho code 33-307. Only registered voters living in the immediate areas of impact would vote per 33-308, explained Morrisroe.