Kennewick students on the east side of town and in the scattered dual language program could be the biggest beneficiaries of a $51 million state grant to reduce class sizes.
One to three elementary schools in Kennewick also would be expanded under the latest proposals presented this week to the Kennewick School Board.
The latest scenarios call for the district using part of the state grant to build a new west Kennewick elementary that was originally to be paid for by a voter-approved $89.5 million bond. The saved bond money then would be used for part of the district’s share of other grant-related construction.
But the board isn’t expected to make a decision until it meets in August, when it will consider a recommendation from administrators and the district’s facilities committee.
We don’t want to appear we’re careless.
Heather Kintzley, Kennewick School Board
District officials and board members have said they are being deliberate in choosing a path forward, especially as they will have the rare opportunity to build facilities they can grow into.
“We don’t want to appear we’re careless,” board Vice President Heather Kintzley told the Herald.
Back to the drawing board
Kennewick was the biggest beneficiary of the 20 districts that received $234 million set aside by the Legislature for K-3 class-size reduction grants. And Kennewick’s grant is expected to build the equivalent of 89 permanent classrooms.
“This is some pretty generous class size numbers the state is calculating,” Superintendent Dave Bond said.
The grant program was established after voters approved a measure calling for class size reductions in kindergarten through third-grade, requiring not only more teachers but also more physical space for teachers and students.
This is some pretty generous class size numbers the state is calculating.
Kennewick School Superintendent Dave Bond
Kennewick district officials initially pitched seven scenarios to the board for construction projects largely paid for by the grant. They included a mix of elementary school additions, new elementary schools or magnet schools throughout the district.
Those proposals have since been scrapped or heavily revamped after further analysis found them to require too much money from the district to complete, logistically difficult to coordinate or not fitting the district’s needs at this time.
The three new scenarios would require the district to spend $20 million to $25 million to finish the projects. They also suggest using the grant to pay for part of the construction of an elementary school planned in the Clearwater Creek development in south Richland.
A future for old Desert Hills
All the new scenarios also propose building an elementary school at the former site of Desert Hills Middle School where the district’s elementary dual language program could be consolidated.
The current building will house the new Chinook Middle School before it moves into its new building on Southridge Boulevard.
Moving dual language students will free up 12 classrooms at both Edison and Hawthorne elementary schools, Bond said. It also would allow the district to use a piece of property that is otherwise too close to other elementary schools to be home to a more traditional school.
“The people who live in the vicinity are very concerned it remain a school,” said board member Ben Messinger.
The people who live in the vicinity (of Desert Hills Middle School) are very concerned it remain a school.
Ben Messinger, Kennewick School Board
District officials also propose relocating Mid-Columbia Partnership, an alternative school, to that site, saving the old Desert Hills gym for it to use in combination with some portable classrooms.
The school currently is based in portables at Kennewick High School and the Fruitland school building and moving it would make a planned renovation of the high school in the coming years smoother.
A Pasco solution for Kennewick?
Vista, Washington and Amistad elementary schools are the only schools that would receive additions built with grant dollars, providing 12 to 18 more classrooms. But one scenario also suggests building a whole new elementary school next to Amistad.
While unconventional on the surface, Bond said the idea isn’t novel, noting that the Vancouver School District takes a similar “campus” approach for some of its schools, in one case having elementary, middle and high schools on the same large parcel.
Locally, the Pasco School District built the new Marie Curie STEM Elementary School next to Whittier Elementary School.
Bond said there is enough space between Amistad and the neighboring district administration building to place a school without using up too much playground or parking.
A second school there would help ease crowding at Eastgate Elementary School and keep students living close to Amistad from being bussed to more distant schools.
“It’s such a different idea I’m still processing it,” Messinger said.
Regardless of how the district moves forward, school officials and board members said the combination of the bond along with the unexpectedly large grant mean Kennewick elementary schools will have room to spare for a couple years after the projects are finished.
“This is a great opportunity,” Kintzley said.