Owyhee High School will welcome 1,430 students at the start of the 2021 school year, but some road improvement projects near the school are not complete.
City council approved Meridian’s newest school at 3650 N. Owyhee Storm Ave. in 2018. Conditions placed on the approval by the Ada County Highway District require several road improvements prior to opening. However with a little over a month until the start of the school year, some of the roads are not complete as the school could never secure a bidder.
The road work will not affect access, however, it will cause traffic with over a thousand students arriving and leaving at the same time.
“What should be done to you know make it make the best out of an unfortunate situation,” Meridians Planning Manager Caleb Hood asked. “Traffic’s going to be bad. You’ve got a bunch of teenagers driving, or moms driving their kids to school, or dads driving their kids to school and it’s a lot of traffic out there. The roads really aren’t in a position to handle that kind of traffic within a 20-minute period.”
When the Owyhee High School project began, four of the major intersections required work.
Char Jackson of the West Ada School District says the widening of Ustick is complete. The widening of McMillian at Owyhee Storm is under construction, and the installation of a signal at Owyhee Storm will start on August 2.
The district expects these two projects to be complete by the start of the school year. However, improvements to the intersection of Star and McMillian and the expansion of Ustick Rd. and McDermott will not be ready until the end of November 2021.
Hood says of no one wants to delay the opening of the new school with children and staff expecting it to open and that likely will not be the case. Though it is a possibility.
“Fifteen hundred kids, and you tell them a month before school or whenever that work to hypothetically happen ‘oh by the way; nope, we’re not letting you in the school.’ I don’t think anyone wants that,” he said.
Hood said not securing a bid was the effect of several factors including COVID and construction cost increases.
“No contractors in our area would bid the work, no one wanted to do this work for the school district,” Hood said. “So, what do you do if you can’t find labor? You just can’t do it. So, again, I don’t see one of the scenarios being the city withholding occupancy and not allowing the school year to start out there. But in theory, that could happen.”
The city will continue to work alongside Meridian City Council, the West Ada School District, and ACHD to work through this problem.
“The reality is people are going to get frustrated,” Hood said. “And so we just want to make sure we’re coordinating with ACHD on the school district that on the message — I mean no one anticipated this, no one likes where we’re at, but the alternative is to not open the school. Is that any better?”