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West Ada School District combats overcrowding with new actions

4 out 5 of major high schools in the district are over capacity.
Posted at 12:08 AM, Jan 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-15 17:33:53-05

MERIDIAN, ID — It's no secret that Meridian is quickly growing-- just look at some of their schools.

"It becomes a problem when your stage becomes a classroom-- or, at an elementary school, where their auxiliary gym, they put a temporary divider between it and that was a fourth grade on one side, and a fifth on the other," said Eric Exline, Chief Communications Officer, West Ada School District.

And the growth is not stopping. Exline says more than 14,000 home sites have now been approved across the entirety of West Ada.

"That's a big number--like I said-- that's 11,000-ish future kids that will show up when those houses are built and sold."

This-- adding pressure to a district that's already feeling strain from over-crowding in its major high schools.

"The crowding in the halls, the challenge of a high school kid trying to get out of a parking lot at the end of the day and it takes 25 minutes if you're the last one to your car because you sit in line for so long."

One school that's no stranger to car--or foot--traffic when the bell rings: Rocky Mountain High School in Meridian. When it first opened more than a decade ago, it was designed for about 1800 students. It's now brimming with about 2400 students.

"Rocky is about 600 kids over, Mountain View's about 500 over, um, but our other two-- two of our other major high schools, Eagle and Centennial, are also over."

How did this happen? Exline says it has to do with getting bonds for new schools passed by voters.

"Idaho is one of two states in the United States that requires a 66 in 2/3s majority to pass a bond-- so that's an incredibly high bar."

Couldn't they just put a cap on enrollment? Well, he says that comes with complications.

"Then you are obligated to bus those students to whatever other school you have room to send them to, and that's expensive."

So at this rate, where will those thousands of future kids go? Meridian High's got some room, but that won't fit them all-- so where else? Exline says hope is on the horizon in the form of Owyhee High School, coming in 2021.

"Owyhee High School, which will open, and it's gonna take us three years to get it built-- it sits on kind of the central west edge of our school district."

Mountain View High will also get larger with the addition of 16 new classrooms.