Columbia School District has joined the list of districts looking for love from voters on Valentine’s Day.
The school board unanimously agreed to ask voters to approve a $4.5 million bond on Feb. 14. It joins Richland, Pasco, Finley and Prosser in asking for funds during the special election.
The money would build two new classrooms, a gymnasium and renovate the staff restrooms in the elementary school in Burbank.
The elementary school holds 356 of the 755 students in the district.
The addition of full-day kindergarten and expanded preschool in recent years led to less space for the remaining elementary school students. Community members balked at moving fifth-grade students into the middle school, so more room needs to be added at the district’s only elementary, Superintendent Lou Gates said.
The school outgrew its multipurpose room, as well. It was built when the school was constructed in 1967, but an addition in the 1980s doubled the size of the school and left the gym unchanged.
Because the students are using the space for gym classes, students have to eat lunch in their classrooms. A new gym would allow students to eat in the multipurpose room and increase the amount of time teachers could be teaching, rather than monitoring students.
The third project included in the bond is renovating the staff restrooms.
We have been working toward this for many, many months. There comes a time when you just can’t keep moving ahead with creative dollars. I think we’ve been quite creative in terms of leveraging our dollars.
Lou Gates, superintendent
Property owners may not notice much of a change in their tax bill if approved, because they are making the final payment for a 1997 bond next year, officials noted.
The about $12 million bond was the most recent passed by voters, and accounted for $1.99 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
If voters approve the bond in February, they would make the first payment of about $1.54 per $1,000 in 2018. A person with a $200,000 home would pay about $308 per year for the six-year bond.
“We have been working toward this for many, many months,” Gates said. “There comes a time when you just can’t keep moving ahead with creative dollars. I think we’ve been quite creative in terms of leveraging our dollars.”
School board member Mike Scrimsher said he is cautiously optimistic about the Burbank community approving the bond.
“Generally, about 20 percent of the constituents of the community will vote (against the bond) no matter what. Fifty percent will typically vote (for it),” he said. “So the whole goal is what to do with the 30 percent.”
The biggest challenge the board is facing is getting people to mail back their ballot, but he feels the number of people in the community with children in school is high enough for the district to get the 60 percent it needs for approval.
“I think most of us agree and understand that in the last 20 years the middle school and the high school got pretty major makeovers ... and the elementary drew the short straw and it’s time to fix that,” he said.