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West Bonner to close junior high

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Hagadone News Network | June 6, 2024 1:00 PM

PRIEST RIVER — After a marathon, five-hour, often emotional meeting, the West Bonner County School Board voted to keep its three elementary schools open but close its junior high school.

The high school would also remain open.

The plan would keep kindergarten through sixth-grade students at Idaho Hill, Priest Lake, and Priest River elementary schools. Seventh and eighth-grade students would go to the high school, with the younger students segregated from the high school students.

Matt George, PRLHS principal, said that, in essence, a "school within a school" would be created with younger students housed at the far end of the high school. While there would be some carryover with the ninth grade students, it would be minimal, with part of it created by the art room located at that end of the building. 

Sophomores and juniors would be located near the quad, further away from the ninth graders. The seniors would be located at the end of the building closest to the office. Lockers could also be separated, and junior high and high school locker rooms could be established within the existing facilities, again with separation.

The board approved a motion to support fundraising to cover the costs of all co-curricular and extracurricular activities. The motion, which passed in a 5-0 vote, drew applause and a yell of "thank you" from the crowd.

While the motion did not include a dollar amount, a presentation estimated a base amount of $148,544 to cover costs. The district would switch to a pay-to-play concept to help make up the $347,000 it will take to offer co-curricular and extracurricular activities, including sports.

The board also approved a motion to move forward with the creation of an endowment fund, asking anyone interested in getting it started to contact the district. The motion was approved by a 5-0 vote.

The option was one of several, one of which was where the district set up the endowment fund through Innovia, and the second was where a donor created the account with the $10,000 minimum.

The budget would be balanced, making up for the $1.1 million shortfall. However, it would leave the district critically short on reserve funds, Dean Davis, director of finance, told the board.

"If we close one school, we would be able to run next year, but we'll be tight," Davis said.