Idaho Fine Arts Academy opens new building, principal talks school choice

Posted at 6:07 PM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-02 22:39:44-05

MERIDIAN, Idaho — West Ada School District officially switched students enrolled in the Idaho Fine Arts Academy to the school’s new location in Meridian on Monday.

The district has been working on the expansion project for about six years, Principal Christian Housel said. Much of the reason behind getting a new building was to be closer to families who wanted to enroll their child in the school and a need for more space to accommodate the academy’s specialized curriculum.

Idaho Fine Arts Academy is a magnet school. Magnet schools are free public schools that teach the state-mandated curriculum and specialized courses ranging from arts and humanities to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

According to the Idaho Department of Education, the Gem State is home to 24 magnet schools — 17 of which are in the Treasure and Magic Valleys. Magnet schools operate under a public school district, like West Ada, and typically have an application or audition enrollment process.

The Idaho Fine Arts Academy’s curriculum is based on six majors: dance, theater, visual arts, and classical, contemporary, and vocal music. Housel said students work with professionals in their field for over an hour every day while continuing their education in traditional subjects like science or math.

Since opening in 2014, Housel said the school had received significant interest from parents. He believes that part of the interest stems from the school choice movement that has empowered families to try alternative forms of education.

“One size cannot fit all. There has to be choice and customization,” Housel said. “We’ve seen this explosion of choice in the public school system. It created a lot of opportunities, and I don’t think people are going to want to let go of that.”

Idaho is a school choice state, meaning parents and families have the freedom to decide how their child is educated.

“Choice is based on the idea that no child learns the same,” Housel said. “Parents know that, and we know that too, which is why it’s important that families have opportunities like our school for their children.”

Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a growing number of parents enrolling their children in magnet schools, charters, private schools, virtual learning programs, and opting for home schooling. In just the 2020-21 school year, charter school enrollment increased by more than 6,000 students.

Related: Charter school enrollment numbers increase during pandemic

While the academy has been capped at 200 students due to its previous facility’s capacity, Housel said the school plans to double enrollment in the next few years.

“We’re in one of the fastest-growing areas in America right now. It has brought a lot of opportunities and folks to the area. They are expecting those opportunities for their kids in the school system here,” he said. “West Ada has responded to that with schools like the Idaho Fine Arts Academy.”