For 26 years, McCall’s alternative high school has bounced from the school district’s basement to Ponderosa Park and a building on Highway 55 to 20 years in a pair of trailers at the edge of McCall-Donnelly High School.
Since February, Heartland High School has filled a small building that previously housed the district IT department and a board policy meeting room.
But now the 23 alternative high school students can step outside and see the first dedicated building for Heartland High School under construction at the far corner of McCall-Donnelly High.
“It matters that every single student (in the district) find a successful path,” said James Foudy, superintendent of McCall-Donnelly Joint School District. “I care that we treat our margins really well. This is their last shot.”
The new Heartland High will open no later than June 2018 or as early as March if a roof is on before substantial snow falls, Foudy said.
Heartland students take fierce pride in their school, even in the improvised settings where it has been set since its establishment in 1991, said Foudy and confirmed by Lexi Dean, mother of a Heartland senior.
“They are proud of their school,” Dean said. “(The new school) will make them that much more proud. It’s going to be a huge sense of pride for the kids. It’s going to be more of a home for them.”
Photo by Pam Benham
Students collaborated with CTA Group architects of Boise to determine the basic layout of the school by moving around small colored blocks marked as school rooms.
Students came up with four classrooms wrapping around a central kitchen and student commons, which they insisted on calling the “family room.”
“The architects kept that,” Foudy said about the family room designation.
The kitchen is not part of the academic program but it literally will be a central feature at the new Heartland school.
“We want to teach them how to cook for their families,” Foudy said. “It’s one of the intangible cultural elements we wanted to introduce.”
Construction started in June. CSDI Construction of Boise is the general contractor.
The Heartland building comes on the heels of Heartland getting its own accreditation in July 2016 from AdvancED, an Alpharetta, Ga., non-profit, non-partisan organization that accredits schools around the world. Before then, accreditation was through McCall-Donnelly High School.
Dean enrolled her son at Heartland last year. Heartland is a “second chance” for students who have dropped out. The school averages 10 graduating students each year.
“It was the best choice I ever made,” Dean said. “My child is so happy to go there. (The new school) will be a lot more conducive to learning. (In the current school), they might have two classes going on in the same classroom. The joke now is this is the east wing and this is the west wing.”
The 5,400-square-foot school is being paid for with $2.2 million from the district’s construction savings account and $400,000 from the district’s forest reserve fund, which is primarily used for capital projects.
A permanent school for Heartland quickly surfaced as a priority for Foudy when he became superintendent three years ago.
“It dignifies the students in a new way,” Foudy said. “Ultimately, we want every student to grow up and become a contributing member to society.”
Note: This story was updated on Nov. 28, 2017, at 8:25 a.m. with the school’s establishment in 1991, one of its past locations on Highway 55 and crediting Pam Benham with a photo.