Richland School Board to weigh cooperative agreements for Delta High School

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldNovember 28, 2012 

The Richland School District's reluctance to sign cooperative agreements regarding Delta High School could be resolved before the end of the week, school officials said Tuesday.

The Richland School Board received an update Tuesday about proposed agreements with the Kennewick and Pasco school districts for the construction and continued operation of the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, high school jointly operated by the three districts in Richland.

Board Chairman Richard Jansons told the Herald that the board will meet to consider the agreements at 3 p.m. Thursday at the district's administrative offices.

"We are in negotiations with the foundation and the other two districts very collaboratively and cooperatively," Jansons said.

Jansons and Tom Yount, president of the board for the Washington State STEM Foundation that works with the districts to support Delta, could not provide details because all the discussions have been informal.

However, Yount said superintendents from all three districts have met and reviewed the proposal and appear comfortable with it.

"We have worked up a potential solution to deal with (Richland's) concerns," he said.

The school is located in buildings leased from Columbia Basin College near downtown Richland and also uses a few classrooms in another building owned by the Pasco college.

The STEM foundation originally was charged with securing money to build a permanent building for the school, but those efforts haven't raised it as quickly as initially hoped.

Representatives from each district met in June and agreed to move ahead with constructing a new Delta High building.

The districts and the foundation then began developing agreements to buy the property the school now uses and to get construction financing. Pasco and Kennewick have already set aside money to pay for their share of design and other preliminary costs.

But Richland board members tabled the agreements in late September. District officials said they wanted to give the foundation more time to raise money for the project, but there were also concerns about the financial liability of putting money up for the project with no guarantee the Legislature would fund it.

Yount and officials from the other districts said to wait could put the possibility of state support at risk.

Delta High needs a host district, which Richland currently is, and a stable operating arrangement for the Legislature to consider putting money toward it.

Yount and others voiced their intent to move forward without Richland if necessary, which could mean moving the school to either Kennewick or Pasco.

But recent discussions with Richland officials have been productive, Yount said.

Pasco Schools Superintendent Saundra Hill informed the Pasco School Board of the discussions going on to keep Richland part of Delta High. She said resolving Richland's concerns "is seeming to be a little difficult than it should be" but officials want Richland to move forward with Pasco and Kennewick on the school.

However, she said the everyone involved with Delta High was prepared to take alternative measures to make sure Delta High continues if Richland doesn't sign the agreements by Friday, including searching for a prospective new site for the school.

-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com

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