Richland School Board OKs buying Delta High

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldOctober 10, 2012 

The Richland School Board will buy the land and buildings currently used by Delta High School, the cooperative science, technology, engineering and math school it shares with the Pasco and Kennewick school districts.

Board members approved the land purchase, costing about $1.18 million last year, but are only now closing the deal, despite not having final arrangements with the other two districts regarding the property for the STEM school.

Richland hasn't rejected or signed two other agreements meant to push forward with building a new facility for Delta High on the property. But board members and Superintendent Jim Busey said the land purchase shows the district's commitment.

"We're totally supportive and we want to show that," he said.

Delta High currently uses buildings owned by Columbia Basin College in central Richland and some classrooms in a neighboring building.

CBC officials have told the districts they'll need the classrooms in the neighboring building back after the 2013-14 school year.

The Washington State STEM Foundation and the school's private partners were originally charged with building a facility for Delta High when it was developed four years ago, but fundraising hasn't been sufficient, largely because of the economy, officials said.

The districts developed a financing plan, potentially using state matching dollars, and the foundation providing what the state didn't toward the estimated $18 million needed for construction.

The Kennewick and Pasco School boards already have approved agreements to move ahead with those plans but Richland tabled the issue last month, raising questions about the district's financial liability for the project.

Busey and other board members have since met with Delta High and foundation officials and both sides said there is a better understanding of the issues.

"We're all supportive and we want (Delta High) to continue," said board member Phyllis Strickler.

However, board Chairman Richard Jansons said there still are some issues to be worked out with the construction of a new building.

Buying the property is a way to keep discussions moving forward, he said. And that purchase is being made when agreements between the three districts when issues such as utilities and maintenance haven't been fully ironed out.

The money for the land will either come from Richland's capital projects fund or money paid to the district in lieu of taxes on federally-owned properties.

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