Kennewick School Board takes first step to renovate or rebuild Eastgate Elementary School

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldMarch 14, 2013 

The Kennewick School Board has taken the first step toward renovating or rebuilding Eastgate Elementary School, one of the oldest schools still in use in the district.

School board members accepted a recommendation from the district's facilities committee on Wednesday night to do the project during the 2014-15 school year. It would cost an estimated $16 million to $18 million to complete.

The school was on a short list of buildings expected to have work done in the future, and the board still has to go through a series of steps before workers can start tearing down walls.

But fixing or rebuilding Eastgate won't require a bond -- the district has the money to do the project now.

"It's actually going to be real exciting," said board Chairwoman Dawn Adams.

The facilities committee, comprised of district residents and staff, made the recommendation for Eastgate. Committee member John Perkins told the board it was a unanimous decision to build or renovate one of the district's schools in 2014-15, after the district wraps up projects at Cascade and Lincoln elementary schools. The district's 10-year facilities plan calls for a possible bond proposal vote in February 2015 for future projects.

Any school construction would have to fit in with the 10-year plan and a state evaluation of the district's buildings. Costs, overcrowding and how the construction could affect a bond election also were considered, Perkins said.

Eastgate was the committee's clear choice for the building project, Perkins said. A renovation of Westgate Elementary School came in second and construction of a new elementary school was third.

"It's got the age, it's got the condition and it won't affect the election," Perkins said.

Principal Niki Arnold-Smith said the school's maintenance staff has done a good job of addressing infrastructure problems at the school, built in 1952, but problems are becoming more persistent.

A leaking roof has created some mold and damaged some classroom computers, Arnold-Smith said. Students eat their lunch in a hallway because there isn't a cafeteria. Four classrooms were added in the early 1980s, but there still is overcrowding.

"Not a lot was done with the main building (in the 1980s) so I think that's why we're seeing some concerns," Arnold-Smith said.

Money for the project would come from state matching dollars left over from the district's 2009 bond, Perkins said. The board will have to go through a public hearing process to use that money, as that wasn't the original intent.

"We think that the public hearing process is the best way and the most transparent," said Superintendent Dave Bond.

Eastgate's students would move to the Fruitland building near Kennewick High School during construction. They could be there longer than a single school year depending on how the district conducts the project.

"We certainly have a lot of time to make decisions," said Doug Carl, the district's facilities manager.

w Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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