West Side School District uses an uncommon method to finance new addition

West Side School District Superintendent Spencer Barzee watches over the building of a new addition of the Harold B. Lee Elementary in Dayton on Tuesday.

DAYTON – The West Side School located in Dayton northwest of Preston is growing. They are adding a 33,000, square foot multi-purpose building at an estimated $3.6 million addition to the Harold B. Lee Elementary School. The West Side School district’s campus includes he elementary school, Beutler Middle School and West Side High School, all within walking distance of each other.

The West Side School District in Dayton is building a 33,000 square foot addition to Harold B. Lee Elementary School using the districts labor force.

The district expects the construction of the building to be finished in two years.

Spencer Barzee, the West Side School superintendent, said the district is seeing significant growth and the West Side School Board is not only trying to meet their current needs but are also planning for the future.

“We are adding a multi-purpose building with a cafeteria/kitchen and 10 classrooms,” he said. “The building will also have two full-sized multi-purpose courts, restrooms, stage area for classroom productions like class recitals, elementary theatrical performances.”

The new space will be a great addition to their campus.

We are growing at five to six percent or 50 students a year and this year we have 785 students district-wide, that includes the high school,” Barzee said. “The new facility will likely be used by the middle school for PE, health classes and a lunchroom.”

The district is planning to use all local money and not use bonds to finance the project. The patrons on the West Side are made up of small towns and most of the patrons depend on agriculture for their incomes.

“We are not going to use bonds and raise taxes, we are just getting started on a fundraising campaign,” the superintendent said. “We just received $400,000 from the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation.”

The Miller donation is a match donation so every $1,000 donated the Millers will match it up to $400,000.

“We are moving gravel and pouring cement now,” Barzee said. “A local builder – Chris Robinson Construction – recently gave a $250,000 donation so the project could get started.”

The district has a unique way of building their needed facilities. The West Side School District uses money saved from the general fund, levied dollars, and generous donations to complete large capital projects.

West School District spends the lowest of any other district in the state at $185 per student tax rate. That is 10 times less than the Idaho State average of $2,000 per student,” he said. “This has been possible because of generous donors and the school district utilizing sound financial practices.”

Despite the lowest cost per student, the students in the district have achieved some of the highest academic test scores in the Gem State.

Using their finance model, the district has been able to complete seven major construction projects. The model has worked since 1990 when the district built the Harold B. Lee Elementary School, the Elwell Gym in 1996, the Beutler Middle School in 1998 and the list goes on.

The district serves as the general contractor and uses existing employees as a labor force to build their facilities.

West Side School District just produced a fundraising YouTube video to solicit funds for the project and will continue looking for corporate sponsors. This time however with electronic technology patrons can pay using credit cards, Venmo, Apple Pay, PayPal or an ordinary check.

Kacey Fredrickson fills in ditches at the Harold B. Lee Elementary School addition construction site on Tuesday.

“The success of the of this building is not the corporate sponsors it is the individual donations from community donors,” Barzee said. “We realize the quality of the institution is not the buildings it’s the people, the teachers, faculty, staff and the students, but the quality of facilities helps a lot,”

The teachers at West Side School District must like where they work. Teacher retention is great, the superintendent said.

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