Students at Franklin County High School may not return to school on Monday as originally planned. Where the school will be located is still up in the air.
“We were told by the Governor’s Office of Idaho that an agreement would be sent to us to allow us back into the National Guard Armory,” said Preston School District Superintendent Joel Wilson. “We have not seen any agreement yet.” Wilson said they cannot start school on Monday for these students until an agreement is in place.
The alternative school was housed in the Armory for several years until its recent remodel, but then the school was not allowed to return. Up until a week ago, Franklin County High School planned on attending school in the upper level of Harold B. Lee Elementary within West Side School District. However, parents and patrons of the community had concerns about this decision and circulated a petition against having the alternative school located in the elementary school. Ultimately, the West Side School District decided to not house Franklin County High School within their elementary school.
“Franklin County High School is a good school,” said Karen Naylor. “We have nothing against the school. It’s the age difference. High school age and elementary age, you just don’t mix them.”
Naylor has several family members who attended the alternative high school and her grandson even graduated with honors from FCHS. While she supports Franklin County High School, she couldn’t support the decision of having them in the same building with elementary students, so she started the petition.
Naylor attended Capital for a Day in Grace, Idaho with other patrons to address the issue with Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and other state representatives. Tyler Olson was another concerned community member who attended Capital for a Day.
“We just talked to them about the problem and whether there was anything we could do,” explained Olson. “They went right ahead and did what they could. The governor ended up meeting with General Saylor with the Idaho National Guard. He agreed to have the alternative school come back to the Armory while Preston School District finds a new facility.”
Olson and Naylor are both grateful for the help and support received from school and state officials. They also are waiting on an interpretation of the rule on where alternative schools can be located. The rule on Alternative Secondary Programs designed to serve at-risk youth states:
<em>Alternative high school programs conducted during the regular school year will be located on a separate site from the regular high school facility or be scheduled at a time different from the regular school hours. </em>
“We asked that the law be clarified. You would think that would assume that elementary and junior high would be included in that,” said Naylor.
The statute is now before the Idaho Deputy Attorney General to determine whether or not an alternative high school can be located in an elementary or middle school.
“My main concern was we needed to make sure we were following the legal framework and that we did what was best for the children and also the alternative students,” Olson said. “We were putting higher risks on the elementary students and also putting the alternative students in a higher pressure environment.”
While everyone waits for an interpretation of the law from the Attorney General’s office, Preston School District is also waiting on a formal agreement to have the alternative school return to the Armory.
“We want to offer these kids a chance to get a diploma in the best situation they can. We’re really grateful to the National Guard Armory. Both them and our school district are kind of caught in the middle of this,” said Wilson.
He hopes they will only have to put off starting school for a week or less.