Collister Elementary’s renovation is estimated to cost over $16.2 million. Dallas Harris Elementary will open around October and is expected to cost $21.1 million.
BOISE, Idaho — This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.
This summer, Boise School District began work on remodeling and renovating Collister Elementary School. Last summer, BSD started construction on Dallas Harris Elementary School. These projects were made possible by voters who passed the 2017 bond for $172.5 million, which needed a 66.67% ‘yes’ vote to be approved and received an 86% approval vote, BSD Public Affairs Administrator Dan Hollar said.
After the bond’s approval, BSD began 22 projects, Hollar said, and right now, the district’s 2017 bond projects are about 90% completed. Both Dallas Harris and Collister are expected to continue construction during the upcoming school year.
Construction on Collister began this June and is expected to be completed in a year, Principal Tara Coe said.
While the original portion built in 1912 is still standing, the rest of Collister Elementary, located on Catalpa Drive west of Hill Road, has been demolished. So this year, students will be attending school at Fort Boise Learning Center on 300 W Fort Street instead of Collister, Coe said. Prior to the current renovations, the three-story school had accessibility and safety issues.
“If we had certain students, we had to make sure that their classroom was in a place that was accessible for all,” Coe said. “Now there will be an elevator in the new part of the building that will allow for access to all classrooms for everyone.”
When the now-demolished addition was added to the original elementary school, the main office became central to the school and the entrance to the school was down a hallway. While Collister had cameras set up and visitors were required to buzz in to enter the school, there was a long stretch of hallway before people entering the school would reach the office.
“That was always concerning to me,” Coe said. “Making sure we can always have eyes on kids at all times, it’s just how it is now.”
After the renovations are completed and the school is reopened, administration will have more control over visitors and parents dropping things off for their children.
“This update will really improve student safety,” Coe said. “To know that we were on a list and that those major things that could be improved and that our community supported us, that was just really heartwarming.”
Collister Elementary’s renovation is estimated to cost over $16.2 million, according to Hollar.
The district is trying to maintain the “small school feel” the Collister has, so the remodel is meant to update what is needed, but maintain its historical aspects, like the school’s original wood and windows. After the renovations are completed, Collister will have a slightly larger footprint with one additional classroom.
“It will continue to be a really great community school,” Coe said. “Just knowing that in a year from now, our students are going to be in a safe building that still is a part of the community is important.”
The school is currently figuring out transportation for students who will be bussing next year, because most students who usually walked to school will now ride the bus. The bus schedule is anticipated to be released in August, Coe said.
According to Dallas Harris Elementary School Principal Wendi Forrey, for the first time in BSD history, two schools will be residing at the same site: Riverside and Dallas Harris.
Dallas Harris will open around October and is expected to cost $21.1 million, according to Hollar. The goal, Forrey said, is to have students attending school at the new building before November. The school was initially anticipated to reach completion this August, but steel supply chain issues stalled the build early on, Forrey said.
The new school will have capacity for 500 students, Forrey said. A majority of the students that will be attending Dallas Harris would have attended Riverside, so they are familiar with the school.
“Our hope is that the students don’t really feel much of the bumps in the road, they just are at school one day, and the next day they’re at Dallas Harris,” Forrey said. “We really want to take care of them, and one of the ways we’re taking care of them is their teacher and their classmates will all be the same.”
From the start of the upcoming school year to the end, students at Dallas Harris will have the same teachers and the same classmates, just a newer school to move into before the holidays. And Riverside Elementary won’t be as crowded as people might think, because everyone aside from the additional teachers and staff, would have already been attending the school anyway, said Kali Riden, kindergarten teacher at Dallas Harris.
Riden’s children, Michael and Jane, will be attending Dallas Harris and making the transition to the new building with her this year.
“We’re all very ready,” Riden said. “As a parent, I just am so excited for the school to open. I want it to already be open, but I also understand things take time and good things come to those who wait. And there’s a lot of things that are being taken into account for the school so I actually appreciate them taking their time and opening it right.”
The transition might be better mid-year, Riden said, giving students the opportunity to meet their new teachers and classmates and get used to them before moving buildings.
Dallas Harris is filling a need for a neighborhood school in East Boise, on South Barnside Way between East Parkcenter Boulevard and East Warm Spring Avenue.
“It’s time to be able to walk to a community school,” Riden said. “The Boise school district kind of prides itself on having neighborhood schools.”
When the time comes this fall, the entire Dallas Harris community will be involved with the transition, that will probably take place over a weekend, to the new elementary school, Forrey said.
“Even without kids of your own, these are our kids and our future,” Riden said. “I’m thankful I live in a place that recognizes the value of investing in our children. Even with all the growth in Boise, we haven’t lost sight of what makes our communities thrive.”
This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, read more on IdahoPress.com.
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