For the second meeting in a row, the Cheney School Board received pleas from audience members to consider building a new school in Airway Heights, or at the very least north of Interstate 90.
Area resident Kippie Shaddix, who spoke on such a need at the Aug. 21 meeting, claimed at the Sept. 11 meeting that “no thought or consideration” to a new school in Airway Heights was given when the district was pursuing construction of three new schools to meet growth demands in the district. District officials have cited this growth and the associated overcrowding as some of the reasons for passing a $78 million construction bond in 2010, resulting in two new middle schools.
Neither of the middle schools, Cheney and Westwood in the Windsor area, was built north of I-90, nor was a new elementary school, the recently opened Snowdon that was constructed using state matching funds made available by passage of the bond.
“We want to know why,” Shaddix asked.
Shaddix, who is running in the November election against school board president Suzanne Dolle in District 2, said she understood one of the reasons was a lack of land, but claimed she understood people could possible donate or sell their land at reduced prices to provide the needed acreage.
Airway Heights Councilman Dave Malet joined Shaddix at the September meeting in asking the board to consider a new school in Airway Heights, noting the issue was more one of transportation than of academics.
“Airway Heights is the fastest growing city in the state, and has been for some time,” Malet claimed. “Citizens are concerned.”
Shaddix echoed this, noting during the Airway Heights festival in August she conducted informal surveys of visitors to her booth. Shaddix said everyone questioned said they would support the board in building a school north of I-90.
“You need to educate the public about your plans and feelings for north of 90 and Airway Heights,” Shaddix said to some applause from about a half dozen people from the city in attendance at the meeting.
The school district has finished the process for proposing renovations to modernize and relieve overcrowding at the high school, including about $44.9 million in work that would be done in phases over several years. At its Aug. 21 meeting the board elected to put off consideration of a bond vote funding construction until at least February 2015.
In other news, Superintendent Dr. Debra Clemens told the board the opening of Snowdon has had a big impact on the school district, a statement echoed by associate superintendent Sean Dotson. Dotson said the district’s decision to allow current teachers to relocate to the new elementary school just north of the Fairways development helped give students transferred to the new school from Windsor and Sunset some familiarity with their new surroundings.
Dotson said preliminary enrollment numbers indicated the district continues to grow, with larger than expected class sizes in fifth, seventh and 11th grades requiring adding more classes. Fewer kindergarten enrollments than expected at Snowdon and more than anticipated at Betz led to moving one half-day class to the elementary next to the high school.
Dotson said they would have more firm numbers by the board’s Sept. 25 meeting.
In new business, the board approved an interlocal agreement between the district and the city of Cheney to provide a student resource officer for the 2013-14 school year with some changes in the district’s responsibility and the compensation level. The board also approved an intergovernmental cooperation agreement with Cheney to allow the city Parks and Recreation Department to provide before and after school programs at Snowdon as well as Windsor and Betz.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.