Upcoming School Bond Basics
Why is a new elementary school needed?
The Oneida School District will hold a bond election on March 14 that will, if passed, qualify the District for funding from the State of Idaho. The State funding, when combined with funds the School District has on hand, will be used to build a new elementary school. The resources for the construction of the building already exist within the District’s budget, although bond passage is necessary to secure the full amount that includes the state’s share. The passage of the bond will mean that the state will pay for nearly 40% of the cost of the new school. As a result, the passage of the bond will mean that Oneida County taxpayers will not see any increases in property taxes in order to construct the new school. (A “no” vote will not result in a decrease in property taxes.) Should the bond not pass, the cost of the building will exceed the District’s current resources.
Problems with current school
The current elementary school, built in 1954, no longer meets the needs of students, teachers, and staff for a safe educational environment, according to several experts who have examined it.
Research conducted prior to two previous failed bond attempts indicated that the current elementary school has structural problems that would make it vulnerable to severe damage should an earthquake hit Malad Valley. For instance, the walls are not tied to the roof, which could result in the building collapsing in a violent earthquake, similar to the 6.5 earthquake centered 40 miles west of Malad in 1975.
Additionally, the building is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because it is a two-story building with no easy access to the second floor. A lift was used for several years, but it was discontinued because the configuration of the staircases made it difficult to use. If a student or staff member requires special accommodations, classrooms are shuffled so that the person does not have to get to the second floor, which can cause a lot of disruption to the organization and management of the school year.
Technology is also a constant problem in the nearly 70-year-old building, primarily due to the cinder brick walls, which have to be drilled to allow wi-fi access. The walls also affect the efficiency of the wi-fi broadcasting within the building itself.
The building has no air conditioning, and heating the building is a huge expense for the District. The single-paned windows throughout the building allow cold air to blow into classrooms. The proposed new school will be built to high-efficiency specifications and should dramatically reduce the utility costs, especially during the winter.
When the building was constructed in the 1950s, concerns for student safety did not include precautions against intruders and active shooters. With multiple exterior doors and the south-facing classrooms all having doors leading to the playground, student safety is a constant concern for teachers and parents. A design with a more focused set of entrance and exit control points would improve safety and security considerably.
The building, which used to be the pride of Malad, is now comparatively run-down and outdated and, in the opinion of many local officials, does not reflect well on the educational opportunities available to students in Oneida School District nor on the efforts of teachers, staff, parents, and students themselves to provide up-to-date curricula and activities through the elementary school.
Because the future of the new school and the fate of the bond election are issues that affect the community greatly, future articles in the Idaho Enterprise will address other questions citizens have had about funding of a new Malad Elementary School. In upcoming weeks, we plan to cover the proposed design for the new school, details about the Bond Equalization program that will help defray the expenses of the project, and other issues related to the school project.
Individuals and groups that have questions are urged to contact Superintendent Jon Abrams (208-534-6080 ext.412) to set up one-on-one or small group meetings to discuss the new building and plans for funding. More information is available on the District website: www.oneidaschooldistrict.com.