Kootenai County, Idaho, high-school students interested in careers as diesel mechanics, machinists or welders can soon attend a school that...

Share story

Kootenai County, Idaho, high-school students interested in careers as diesel mechanics, machinists or welders can soon attend a school that offers courses in trades alongside classes in English, social studies and math.

Next to that high school, on the same 100-acre parcel of Rathdrum Prairie land, North Idaho College will establish a campus geared toward professional and technical education, allowing students to move seamlessly into college programs.

That’s the intent of an agreement signed Friday by the county’s three major school districts — Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Lakeland — along with North Idaho College, a consortium of manufacturing businesses and the Meyer family of Rathdrum.

“To be standing on the property where the high school will be is goose-bump time for me,” Coeur d’Alene Superintendent Hazel Bauman said at a ceremony on the land Friday afternoon.

By pooling resources, the school districts would accomplish what none of them could have completed individually, Bauman said. “The beneficiaries are our boys and girls, our sons and daughters.”

The Meyers, longtime prairie bluegrass farmers, have agreed to sell 90 acres at $27,500 per acre to further professional and technical education in the region. Additionally, the family agreed to donate 10 acres for the new professional/technical high school.

North Idaho manufacturers are raising the $275,000 to purchase the additional 10 acres that will complete the 20 acres necessary for the high school.

NIC also will spend $1.1 million on 40 acres, $200,000 of which has already been paid to secure an option.

Those 40 acres will be used to develop a trades and industry program and to move existing programs, such as those for automotive mechanics and welding, from the downtown Coeur d’Alene campus to the new site.

Lastly, Lakeland School District will spend $1.1 million to purchase the remaining 40 acres to build a new high school in the future. An appraisal will be needed to justify the purchase price, according to the agreement signed Friday.

“It’s really high time that we concentrate on the 80-plus percent of young people that don’t get a four-year college degree,” said Paul Anderson, chairman of the Kootenai County Professional/Technical Campus Committee.

Though this is a years-long process, Anderson expects the manufacturing businesses to have raised the remaining $275,000 by the first of the year so the purchase of the 20-acre parcel for the high school can be finalized.

Each of the three planning processes will then take time to finance and design, he said.

Right now, students from the three high schools interested in such courses attend the Riverbend Professional Technical Academy, located at NIC’s Workforce Training Center in Post Falls.

But automotive programs, the more technical health-occupations courses, machining, and courses in areas in which the equipment necessary is expensive and difficult to deliver aren’t available there, said Jerry Keane, superintendent of the Post Falls School District.

“We haven’t been able to deliver those kinds of courses to our students, any one of the three districts,” Keane said.

“We’re trying to create a program where all three districts’ students could attend.”