Desert Hills Middle School will not be rebuilt at its 10th Avenue location, so long as voters approve a proposed bond to pay for the project.
The Kennewick School Board unanimously voted Wednesday night to build two new middle schools -- one in west Kennewick and another near Southridge High School -- as part of the proposed bond.
Original plans called for one new middle school and rebuilding Desert Hills at its present location.
"I think this is a much better way to go," said board Vice President Heather Kintzley.
The school board is considering putting an $88 million to $92 million bond before voters in February. It would pay for two new elementary schools, a rebuilt Westgate Elementary School, a new middle school and a rebuilt Desert Hills.
If approved by voters, the bond would cost a property owner around 30 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value, based on tax rate projections.
That's $60 a year for a home assessed at $200,000. Board member Ron Mabry described it as a bond that would get the community "five schools for $5 a month."
Desert Hills is long overdue for an overhaul, district officials have said, and the building's layout and condition make a remodel unfeasible. The site is too small to meet all program needs and contributes to traffic congestion in the neighborhood.
The district's facilities committee unanimously recommended Desert Hills not be rebuilt at its current site. Committee members noted the district would have five middle schools faster if construction doesn't have to work around building at the current site.
Board members also unanimously agreed to study the possibility of building the second elementary at the same time Westgate is rebuilt. The facilities committee recommended the study because of the increasing need for portable classrooms at overcrowded elementary schools.
The board and Superintendent Dave Bond spoke briefly on what the new middle schools could be named, whether one would continue as Desert Hills or they all would have new names. That conversation is premature, board members said, but if the bond passes there will be a public process on how the schools are named.
"I don't know if I want to sit here and make a decision without knowing what some of the sensitivities are," said board President Dawn Adams.
Also Wednesday, the board:
w unanimously voted to use $5 million in federal dollars to pay down a portion of the debt the district would incur if voters approve the proposed bond.
The district would specifically use PILT money, or dollars paid in lieu of taxes. The federal government pays that money to districts in lieu of paying taxes on federally owned property.
Using those dollars to pay down the debt from the bond, should it be approved, will show voters that the district is looking to limit financial obligations and be good stewards, district officials said.
w unanimously voted to eliminate a culminating project as a graduation requirement for the class of 2016 and beyond.
State lawmakers dropped the requirement during the last legislative session. Districts still are allowed to require them though many already have begun dropping them.
This year's seniors will still be required to complete a culminating project.
District officials said staffing and courses that serve the projects were locked in last year and it would be difficult to accommodate the change this year.
-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald