Students in new Richland subdivisions will attend Marcus Whitman Elementary

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldMay 9, 2013 

Future students from three subdivisions under construction in Richland will be assigned to Marcus Whitman Elementary School until a new elementary is built.

The developments would normally be a part of the overcrowded White Bluffs Elementary School.

The Richland School District is moving forward with plans to build a new elementary school in that area as part of a voter-approved $98 million bond and said the reassignments are a temporary fix to address overcrowding.

However, some parents told the board at a Wednesday meeting it needs to develop a policy so similar reassignments are handled equally in the future.

The parents said the board should only move students it knows will end up at Marcus Whitman, since the new elementary school will be built near the intersection of Westcliffe Boulevard and Brantingham Road.

Board members said that wasn't feasible, as the district doesn't yet have the space within a new school to place students. And it's not certain what student enrollment will be like in the next few years.

However, district staff are putting together a policy to guide reassignment decisions in the future.

The district also is grappling with overcrowding in several of its other elementary and middle schools. The bond, which also will pay for a new middle school, rebuilding three central Richland schools, including Marcus Whitman, and several other projects is meant to address growing student enrollment.

However, the district hasn't fully determined when each project will break ground. Board members have authorized district staff to begin developing building specifications and soliciting proposals from architects and engineers for the four elementary schools as well as the new middle school.

Several parents from the central Richland elementary schools known as the three sisters -- Marcus Whitman, Lewis & Clark, Sacajawea -- showed up at the meeting and said they were disappointed the board was moving forward with the middle school project ahead of improvements at their schools. The three sisters are outdated and have failing infrastructure.

Board Chairman Rick Jansons said the board had not decided on when each project would be built and that the board was only making sure it had multiple options in getting each one complete.

"It's at least my desire to accelerate all the projects," he said.

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