Kennewick School District may consider putting bond on future ballot

Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldOctober 23, 2013 

Voters in the Kennewick School District may be considering an $80 million to $90 million bond for new schools and renovations on a future ballot.

District administrators presented various scenarios to Kennewick School Board members Wednesday night, demonstrating how the district could move forward on some needed construction as well as a new middle school and two new elementary schools.

"This really is a ballpark figure," said Superintendent Dave Bond.

The projects are all at a preliminary stage and the board didn't give any formal approval. However, board members gave consensus to the basic plan.

Growing student enrollment and aging facilities are the main reasons for the bond, officials said, and a bond would go on the ballot in February 2015.

Along with building the three new schools, Desert Hills Middle School and Westgate Elementary School would be renovated.

The projects are estimated to cost a combined $154 million. District administrators expect the state to cover a little less than half of that amount. Construction would run from 2015-18.

Bond said if the board approves the plan, it will have to decide when specific projects are done. Most scenarios have the district working on two projects at a time, though the board could decide to do as many as three at a time.

"We have done two projects simultaneously and I have to tell you it was a stretch (for staff)," he said.

The board also would have to decide when to do which projects. The new middle school, new elementary school and Desert Hills renovation are expected to be done first. The district's facilities committee was split on whether the second new elementary or the Westgate renovation should be done last.

"It's being bandaged up now to get through," Bond said of Westgate.

Board members debated the timing of projects and whether to include any others for the bond, such as new facilities for alternative programs Legacy High School and Mid-Columbia Parent Partnership. But most of the board agreed those projects can wait for a future bond that could go before voters around 2020.

Board President Dawn Adams also was concerned about whether these projects would be enough to accommodate growth and state initiatives to shrink class sizes and implement full-day kindergarten. The district is looking at having to nearly double the number of portables at its elementary schools in the next few years.

"We still need a third elementary school," she said.

The board will revisit the proposal in November and determine whether to approve it as part of the district's 10-year facilities plan. If approved, board members could start working on a potential bond proposal in the spring.

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

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