There was no shortage of questions Thursday night from Pasco School District parents for John Morgan, assistant superintendent of operations.
Why isn't a new middle school part of the potential bond measure? Why build a new elementary school within a block of an existing elementary school? How is the district going to make sure voters know about a bond?
The Pasco School Board has yet to decide whether to put the proposed $46.6 million bond on the ballot, but Thursday's meeting at McLoughlin Middle School was the latest offered in recent weeks to inform district patrons about the plan and what could happen if a bond isn't approved by voters.
Some of the few attendees said they liked the bond proposal, but others voiced frustration, saying it addressed long-term concerns but nothing in the short-term.
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"My son is in the seventh grade, and the pressure is on now," said Avonte Jackson. "Our kids are in the middle of the crowding, and there's nothing to be done."
Under the bond proposal, one elementary school would be built at Powerline Road and Road 52 and open for the 2014-15 school year. A kindergarten would be built at Sandifur Parkway and Road 60, while another elementary school would be built near Whittier Elementary School in east Pasco. Those two schools would open for the 2015-16 school year.
The district would move sixth-graders into elementary schools to reduce demand for middle school facilities.
The district also would attempt to finish projects at other schools with money from the bond. Those projects include improvements to Stevens Middle School, construction of new science labs at Pasco High School and relocation of New Horizons High School.
Morgan said the district has been absorbing hundreds of new students each year, leading to the construction and opening of six schools in the past 12 years.
Regardless, the district will have 5,000 students in portable classrooms just to meet enrollment. There are now 30 portable classrooms at McLoughlin, where there are three lunch periods with five serving lines each, the earliest starting at 10:43 a.m.
"We call it brunch," said McLoughlin Principal John Wallwork.
Morgan touted the district's low construction costs and how much administrators had reduced the cost of a bond rejected by voters a year ago.
He answered questions throughout the presentation, noting that even if a middle school were part of a proposed bond, it wouldn't be built in time to affect current middle school students. Building a school close to Whittier would meet increasing enrollment in that area and allow the schools to share a playground. And the district won't waste any time in letting people know about the bond should the board approve it, he said.
"We're going to hit the ground running," Morgan said.
Without a bond, Morgan said the district would have to move some schools to multitrack operation, where the schools are open year-round but students attend on different tracks. The district also could double-shift schools, with half of a school's students attending in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. Both options are expensive, he said.
Mary Cacucciolo, who has a student heading to Chiawana High School next year and another starting the fourth grade at Ruth Livingston Elementary, said she could support a bond if it's used to effectively address the crowding problem. She isn't so certain of other parts of the proposal, such as moving sixth-graders back to elementary schools.
"They say they have the room to do it, but it seems pretty crowded everywhere," she said.
Jackson said she appreciated the district making information available and answering questions but said she still had her doubts the proposed bond would be effective. In the meantime, she had some advice for another parent at the meeting who will have a sixth-grader at McLoughlin next year and is deciding whether to drive her student to the school or have them take the bus.
"Have you been here in the morning? Give yourself enough time," Jackson said.