NEW PLYMOUTH — Attention New Plymouth students and staff: Superintendent David Sotutu submitted several school improvement projects forward for the New Plymouth School District Board of Trustees’ approval, during its regular meeting on Nov. 8. According to Sotutu, the projects are being paid for through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, but needed pre-approval by the Idaho State Department of Education, as each exceeds $5,000 in cost.

“”We received the State Department of [Education]’s approval for four of these projects that are capital projects, upgrades to school facilities,” said Sotutu.

Following is the list of projects, as approved by the board.

• Two projects involve replacement of the intercom and synchronized clock systems at New Plymouth Middle School and at New Plymouth Elementary School. According to Sotutu, ESSER I funds were used previously to replace the intercom system at New Plymouth High School, as the old one there reached the end of its usable life.

“That was more of [an] emergency situation, because it had gone out,” he said. “These ones are on their way out, so we want to upgrade those while we have the funds to do it, before they go out.”

• Openable windows will be added to some classrooms New Plymouth High School. Sotutu said this is in an effort to improve ventilation in these rooms.

“We’re working on quotes for the other buildings as well,” he said.

• A heating/ventilation/air conditioning system replacement will take place around the high school’s kitchen area.

Trustee Lane Austin moved to approve these projects, seconded by Trustee Dean Jones. The motion carried unanimously, 5-0.

Maintenance supervisor Mike Hally helped Sotutu gather quotes for these projects. According to Board Clerk Shannon Reece, the middle school intercom project is expected to cost $36,517, while that at the elementary school will cost $44,901. New windows at the high school are estimated at $5,123 and the HVAC system at $11,566.

The district is also budgeting $140,000 in ESSER II salary funds for bonuses for district staff, according to Sotutu.

The district has received $2.5 million in state and federal COVID-19 relief funds since March 2020. It has $1.9 million of those funds left, which must be spent by September 2023, according to Sotutu.

In other business

In a letter to the New Plymouth City Council dated Nov. 9, Sotutu urged council members to involve the district in its decision-making regarding housing development within the city. He read the letter aloud, emphasized student safety in the letter, during this meeting.

“As a school district we welcome the opportunity to serve more students and their families and do not oppose the city council’s approval of these subdivisions. However, as we have expressed in past correspondence and in council meetings, we are concerned about the safety of our children as they travel to and from school,” the letter reads, in part, as obtained by the newspaper. “As we have learned from joint efforts, our school district and city public works department have made to improve safety zones around our schools, making upgrades to crosswalks, sidewalks, signage, and other safety measures to keep our kids safe on our roadways is a costly endeavor.”

Sotutu further urged the council to impose impact fees on new properties, with a portion of fees collected to be used to improve roads and walkways to the district’s campuses.

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