Pasco School Board kicks in $2.4 million for Delta High School

Tri-City HeraldMarch 26, 2013 

The Pasco School Board agreed Tuesday to contribute $2.4 million toward initial work on a new Delta High School.

But Pasco and the Richland and Kennewick school districts are hoping the state will pay for the construction.

The districts designated a site in west Pasco for the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, school weeks ago and have been working with the Washington State STEM Education Foundation to secure money from the Legislature and donors to build it.

The districts missed the deadline to receive state-matching dollars for the project this summer. Pasco Superintendent Saundra Hill said she expects the district to be reimbursed for its expenses, but the project needs to move forward as Delta High's current home won't be available after another year.

"Because of the timeline, we need to get moving on this," she told the board.

Delta High, which has 340 students from all three districts and will graduate its first senior class this spring, leases buildings from Columbia Basin College on Northgate Avenue in Richland. School officials and other educators have said the space limits the school's growth and offerings, and the lease with CBC runs out in 2014.

The districts and the foundation are lobbying the Legislature to provide the bulk of the estimated $18 million needed for construction. The foundation also is seeking private donations. Bechtel National gave $250,000 earlier this year.

The districts planned to file their request for funding in the fall, but concerns from the Richland School Board stalled the process. A new agreement was worked out, with Kennewick and Pasco potentially shouldering a small portion of the costs, specifically in designing the school.

Richland has no financial liability but ceded its say over the school's location and construction as a result.

However, the delay meant Pasco wasn't able to submit documents outlining the project and its merits to the state until February, missing the current cycle of allocation of state-matching dollars.

Kennewick also is providing $2.4 million, and Hill told the board that Pasco's contribution will come from a reserve fund that would have been used to move New Horizons High School if voters hadn't approved a $46.8 million bond in February.

Darrell Toombs Jr., the board's newest member and was sworn in earlier that night, questioned how much of a guarantee the district has of being repaid.

Hill said there always is some risk in moving forward without a solid commitment from the state. The district will have a better understanding of the situation later in the legislative session as the foundation pushes its case for money for Delta.

State Superintendent Randy Dorn also is supportive of the project and has spoke of getting the construction paid for by the state.

"We don't have (Dorn's) name on the dotted line yet but he's said that to us several times," Hill said.

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