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Pocatello-Chubbuck School Board tables bond election until impacts of new legislative bill are known

POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI) - The Pocatello/Chubbuck School District Board of Trustees has tabled action on a school bond election for Highland High School until they know the impacts of a bill going through the Idaho Legislature.

House Bill 521 proposes to create a new School Modernization Facilities Fund. The impact of the bill is unclear.

“Early reports indicate the promise of this bill could help reduce a bond request or potentially eliminate the need to bond altogether,” Board Chair Deanna Judy said in a school district press release.

The bill still needs to pass in the House and Senate.

The school board did create a Highland High School Rebuild and Design Committee. Their purpose will be to review and discuss various options to rebuild Highland High School.

A fire destroyed the gym, band room and other parts of the school last April.

“With or without new state funding, Highland High School’s needs haven’t changed. We still have a critical need to rebuild essential areas of Highland High School,” Judy emphasized. 

The media release says since the onset of the fire, meticulous planning has been underway to rebuild and restore the affected areas of the school. Last November a bond failed because it didn't get the supermajority of voters to approve.

“We are taking the necessary steps to explore various options and make thoughtful decisions that consider both financial prudence and the imperative to uphold educational standards,” Judy said.

One option includes rebuilding Highland’s facilities to 6A standards by combining insurance replacement monies with alternative sources of funding from the district, including allocations from the Capital Improvement Program and potential property sales, they said.

Another option is to run another bond proposal on May 21, 2024 to rebuild Highland’s lost facilities and modernize instructional, activity, athletic, and performance spaces to align with 6A standards. This option also factors in the insurance replacement monies into the financial request for the bond proposal, they said.

The school board has until March 22 to set a bond for May.

“We appreciate the Board’s painstaking efforts and thoughtful approach to rebuilding Highland,” Dr. Douglas Howell, Superintendent of Schools said. “We cannot overemphasize the resilience and strength of the Highland High School community in overcoming adversity and moving forward towards a brighter future. Rebuilding these essential areas is not only a significant endeavor for the district, but for the community.” 

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