Packed In: ‘Holding our breath’: Coeur d’Alene School District struggles to find space for students as population booms

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — As more people pack in to the Inland Northwest, schools in the Coeur d’Alene district are overflowing. They’ve gotten creative to make space but know their strategies won’t last forever.

According to the Census Bureau, the city’s population has grown nearly 25 percent in the last ten years. This growth is good, but more families mean more pressure to find space for everyone.

“It’s just that burden of adding another student, another student,” said Jennifer Peak, the Principal at Skyway Elementary.

She says they’re enrolling three to five new students every week. They’re making it work, even though space is tight. Skyway was built to hold just under 500 students. Today, there are 610 students enrolled. The schools put up portable classrooms, turned closets into teacher workrooms and moved desks closer together.

“We’ve tried to be creative and think of solutions that don’t require a large investment into new buildings, but we’re getting to that point where we’re probably going to run out of those strategies,” said Scott Maben, the Director of Communications for Coeur d’Alene Public Schools.

One-third of the classrooms at Skyway are above their ideal student-teacher ratio which is also difficult for staff.

“It is really hard on our teachers when it’s one teacher to 31 students,” Peak said.

The district is starting conversations about how they’ll be able to accommodate more families moving in. It’s hard to plan for, though, because the growth isn’t done.

“Honestly, I think we’re holding our breath to see how many more homes will go in this last development,” Peak added.

The district is trying to get its hands on land before it’s all bought up and developed. Maben says they want to make sure they’ll know where new schools will go in the not so distant future.

“The pressure is going to build here at Skyway and a few other schools until we can resolve it possibly by opening some new schools soon,” Maben said.

MORE: Packed In: ‘Huge, huge concerns’: Neighbors worry about pace of development in Latah Valley

MORE: Packed In: ‘We’re losing time’: Permitting delays back up builders by months on home construction