Parents criticized the Richland School Board Tuesday night for not asking for public input on what to do with $6 million in additional construction money the state provided for the district's bond projects.
Sara Spencer and Cassidi Gaul told board members they're ignoring the needs of Three Rivers HomeLink and Jefferson Elementary School by not funneling some of the additional money to them. Both were included in the $98 million bond.
"Why are we not seeing any of this money?" said Spencer, who is president of the parent-teacher organization at HomeLink, the district's alternative education program.
Board members said the district needs to better communicate with parents at HomeLink and Jefferson about what lies ahead. However, they added they are limited in what they can say, as they are considering several options but can't disclose anything until details are firm.
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"We haven't forgotten you," said board member Mary Guay.
Voters approved the bond in February. Much of the board's attention has gone to the rebuilding of three central Richland elementaries and construction of a new south Richland elementary.
Board members decided to rebuild the three central Richland schools to a larger size, 65,000 square feet, rather than their current 43,000 square feet, to accommodate all-day kindergarten in the future when the state upped its share of matching dollars for the projects.
However, the board had not set a definitive size for the projects before the additional money was provided.
Jefferson Elementary is slated to have its oldest wing rebuilt with bond money. HomeLink is supposed to get a new facility, as it has outgrown the church and portables it currently uses.
Those two projects have not been discussed extensively in recent public meetings. Spencer and Gaul said that's rubbing parents the wrong way. HomeLink doesn't have fire sprinklers yet despite promises they'd be installed during the summer. Jefferson is the district's oldest building, yet is still waiting for improvements.
"We're not even on the board's radar right now," Gaul said.
Vice Chairwoman Heather Cleary said HomeLink and Jefferson regularly are discussed in executive sessions and that is partly why nothing's been said publicly.
"We can't discuss a property deal until it's set," she said.
Superintendent Rick Schulte said the sprinklers were not installed at HomeLink because of higher-than-expected cost and the likelihood the program could move after this year.
The district is looking at several options for the program and will seek public input on those options once feasibility studies are complete, Schulte said.
But board members said the district does need to communicate with parents that work is being done.
"We need to reach out to you," said board member Rick Donahoe.
In other business Tuesday, the board reviewed basic plans for rebuilding the three central Richland elementaries.
The designs are two-story and have a long and narrow layout. They will be basically the same for each school, with each school's main entrance designed differently to give them their own identity, district officials said.
The designs are already facing changes following comments from the board and discussions with the schools' principals. The layout of each school's administrative office will be shifted and the location of classrooms for art, music and special education will be changed.
The board will review the changes at a meeting on Tuesday.