By Nik Streng

Independent-Enterprise

FRUITLAND – Despite getting the blessing of local governing bodies, local charter school Treasure Valley Classical Academy is currently not planning on reopening its doors to students this spring.

During a virtual town hall on May 13, Principal Stephen Lambert said that the school has been combing through Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s current executive guidelines for the state. Despite the word “school” not appearing in the guidelines a single time, Lambert said, the guidelines do specify that all groups (both public and private) are to be held with fewer than 10 people. The guideline of groups being fewer than 10 people is scheduled to last until June 12.

Lambert said the school “can’t practically operate” in groups of nine or fewer. During his press conference on May 14, Little did not ease the restrictions that were put in place. 

The Fruitland-based charter school received the blessing of Southwest District Health to reopen. That letter was sent to the school on May 6. On Tuesday night, the charter school’s Board of Directors voted to approve of the school’s reopening plan as well, Lambert said.

The final day of the 2019-20 school year is scheduled for May 29.

Expansion plans

In the later half of his virtual town hall, Lambert laid out several plans that the school has for future expansions. 

Currently, the charter school houses kindergarten through sixth grade and had an enrollment of 311 students in the fall. Lambert said the school is currently seeing a re-enrollment rate of 98% and have over 120 new students enrolled to start in the fall. 

The school is planning on expanding by one grade level per year until it is a full K-12. 

Lambert said the school is contracted with Hummel Architects to help create its master plan for expansion.

“We need the space, quite frankly,” Lambert said. 

Lambert said the charter school took phase one of the master plan to the Planning and Zoning Commission of Fruitland on May 12, and the school’s use permit for phase one was approved. Lambert said that initial phase includes a playground that students can use (currently, the school uses Fruitland Community Park and students have to cross Southwest Third Street to use the facilities). 

Lambert said they will also add new basketball hoops in the gymnasium, which will require structural support to be added to the building. 

The first phase also includes a remodel of the old Fruitland Electric building, which will be able to house sixth- and seventh-graders. Lambert said he is hoping that remodel can be completed by the end of the summer. 

“We’ll be in position for a good start next school year,” Lambert said. 

The Classical Academy announced that it started a lease-to-own arrangement on the Fruitland Electric building in late January. 

While they are further in the future, Lambert added that phase two is in the works. That will include a new 24,000 square foot building that will house the sixth- through ninth-graders. The location of that building will be where Fruitland Electric is right now. Lambert said the goal is to have that complete by fall 2021. 

Phase three of the plan, which would be complete by Fall 2023, would be a second building “of similar size” which would house the high school students. 

“It’s incredibly exciting,” Lambert said. “We have architectural renditions of what the buildings will look like and they are a marvelous expansion of our current building.”

With the charter school adding its first cohort of middle-schoolers, Lambert added that they will begin official school athletics starting in the fall. He said the plan is to have cross-country, soccer and volleyball in the fall, followed by basketball and maybe wrestling in the winter. 

Student government

Following its first year, Lambert said the Classical Academy will be holding its first student government elections. 

“If you’re like me, you probably just voted by mail in a Primary Election,” Lambert said. “And who knows, we may be voting by mail in the General Election. So our students will be voting by mail.”

Students running for student government positions at the charter school will be able to give their campaign speeches via Google Classroom and students will be able to vote by mail.

Nik Streng is the sports reporter for the Argus Observer. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2015 with a master's degree in journalism, after graduating from Pacific University in 2013 with a degree in creative writing.

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