A $69.5 million bond is heading to Pasco School District voters in February.
The Pasco school board recently voted 4-1 to place the measure on the ballot for a Feb. 14 election.
The district plans to use the money to build elementary school No. 16 on district-owned property in the 4000 block of Road 84, elementary school No. 17 on a site to be determined, replace Stevens Middle School with a building at the same site and add 6,000 square feet of classrooms to Curie STEM Elementary School.
The two elementary schools are each expected to hold about 800 students and measure about 72,000 square feet. The elementary schools are expected to relieve overcrowding.
The district also plans to use some of the money to purchase new land for future schools, replace air conditioning and heating systems, repair playground surfaces and add two bays for repairing school buses.
The school district’s population doubled during the past 15 years, rising from 32,066 to 70,560 students. Enrollment at district schools increased as well, rising from 8,850 students to 17,353 students.
Property owners in the district pay $2.39 per $1,000 in assessed value to support existing bond debt.
If approved, the 2017 bond would add less than $50 to the annual tax bill for a home valued at $100,000.
Board member Aaron Richardson disagreed with the package of projects, and was the single opposing vote. He expressed his disappointment that the bond didn’t include a new middle school.
Richardson pointed out parents, teachers and the athletic director from McLoughlin Middle School raised concerns about the number of students at the school during a previous board meeting.
State officials estimate the district’s elementary schools should hold 8,729 students — 10,128 students are enrolled in those schools.
“From all of the feedback we received as a board and that I received personally, the community was supportive of having a fourth middle school,” Richardson said.
He said his vote as a member of the board shouldn’t reflect on whether he would support the measure personally, or that he is asking other people to oppose it.
Board President Scott Lehrman and Vice President Steve Christensen said at a previous meeting that overcrowding at the elementary schools is a more pressing issue.
“My concern, if we simply say, ‘Look. we’ve got to have another middle school now,’ we do it at the expense of our elementary schools,” Christensen said. “We will be back here in two years, or four years, saying, ‘Wow, how did we get to this point, where we have 900 students in our elementary schools?’ ”
Lehrman said the district can receive matching funds for 140,000 square feet.
“Almost all of (the matching funds) are due to our being over capacity at the K-6 level,” Lehrman said.
State officials estimate the district’s elementary schools should hold 8,729 students. Lehrman said 10,128 students are enrolled in those schools.
“If we do nothing, we’re still over capacity by 1,400 students,” he said.