March bomb threat will cost A.F. school district in 2014

by Kurtis Workman
Press Staff Writer

Friday, March 8, was a very expensive day for local law enforcement. The bomb threat against American Falls High School racked up overtime hours for the Power County Sheriff’s Office, the American Falls Police Department, Bannock County Sheriff’s Office (for the bomb detection K9 officer and handler), and Idaho State Police along with equipment costs for all agencies involved.

Those agencies are still calculating the costs of securing American Falls High School and students, but the final tally for the American Falls School District may not be known until next year.

The bomb threat caused a drastic drop in attendance, as a majority of the AFHS student body avoided the school for that day. The decision to keep students away from school that day was made primarily by parents.

Power County Sheriff Jim Jeffries said on Friday, March 8, deciding to keep students home was a tough call for parents.

“It is difficult for parents to decide. I would never second guess a parent’s choice in this situation. I may have made the same choice if I still had children in school,” said Jeffries.

American Falls High School Principal Jeff Read agreed that the decision to keep students home was completely up to parents.

“Keeping students home on a day like this is something only a parent can decide. I appreciate the students that are here, but I completely understand the decision to keep students at home where parents are certain they are safe,” said Read.

Read indicated on the morning of Friday, March 8, attendance at the high school was below 40 percent and likely to decline as the day progressed.

The yet unknown loss for the American Falls School District will come when the state appropriates money for the school district based on the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) allotment.

According to American Falls School District Superintendent Dr. Ron Bolinger the details of the formula used by the state are complicated.

“The ADA is a complex formula that the state uses to figure out how much a school district will receive in base funding. The formula attempts to take in many factors pertinent to funding a school district,” said Bolinger.

According to Bolinger the important part of the ADA formula to remember is that the base numbers come from attendance.

“The ADA formula begins with the average attendance of the best 28 weeks from the previous year,” said Bolinger.

While it is obvious to see why an estimated 60 percent drop in attendance would adversely affect the school district, the actual impact is much greater because of the particular week the bomb threat was made.

“The first full week of March is traditionally one of, if not the best, week for attendance in schools across the state. It is usually our best week as well,” said Read.

Bolinger said it is difficult to assess the full impact the drop in attendance will have, but he worries about the potential loss.

“Now that the state controls school funding this is tough for us to lose the attendance because we are between winter and spring activities so attendance in the early part of March is critical to representing our district’s population accurately in the ADA formula,” said Bolinger.

Adding to the loss of attendance at the high school a small number of parents kept younger students away from the other schools in the district.

“There is always a certain amount of students that are sick, at doctor appointments, or out of school for another reason. We did hear there were a small number of students at our other buildings that were kept out of school as a precaution. While I don’t think that number is very large, it removes those students from the count. We won’t know exactly how much this will affect our district until the funding for 2014 is announced.” said Bolinger.

Regardless of the specific numbers Bolinger is certain the first week of March will not be the best week of attendance in the 2014 ADA calculations.

“I am not sure if the first week of March will fall completely out of the top 28 weeks, but I am fairly confident it will not be the top week. It is like going into the championship game without your best player,” said Bolinger.

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