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Regional News

Report shows the need to replace or remodel many Idaho schools

Coeur d'Alene High School
Courtesy of Coeur d'Alene School District
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Idaho law requires two-thirds approval from voters for school bond issues.

A survey of 77 districts shows more than half of schools are in fair or poor condition.

Many Idaho school districts have buildings that need to be remodeled or replaced.

The Idaho state Office of Performance Evaluations says it’s not easy to get an overall picture of school infrastructure. Casey Petti from that office says many districts don’t write their required 10-year facilities plans, so his office surveyed districts about their buildings.

“When we asked school district administrators to rank the biggest challenges they face, in terms of school buildings, the top two challenges were repairing or phasing out old buildings that were beyond their useful life," he said.

Petti says his office recommends the legislature commission a statewide facility condition assessment of school buildings.

"The legislature last received a facility condition assessment of school buildings in 1993. That assessment found $700 million, or $1.3 billion in 2020 dollars, in needed repairs, additional facilities or upgrades," he said. "Without a statewide facility conditions assessment we likely won’t have a similar dollar amount that you can rely on for policy making.”

Petti says, in the last 15 years, more of the burden of funding those projects has moved from the state to districts. Petti says the track record for local bond issues is spotty.

“We looked at all school bonds that were proposed between 2011 and 2020. Over this time period, there were 120 bonds proposed. Of those 41%, 49 passed," he said.

Idaho requires two-thirds support for those to approve school bond issues. It means many districts that need new facilities are unable to raise the money to build them.