Four new Richland elementary school buildings paid for by a $98 million bond should be ready for students in two years, according to school district officials.
The district released the schedule Tuesday for designing, building and opening the school buildings in south and central Richland.
All of the buildings will be open for the 2015-16 school year, officials said. Construction starts will be staggered between April and August 2014.
"The projects are really going well," said Kevin Knodel, the district's executive director of capital projects. "We're right on schedule."
Richland is replacing the so-called "three sisters" in central Richland -- Marcus Whitman, Lewis & Clark and Sacajawea elementary schools. New buildings will be built next to the existing structures. The new as-yet-unnamed elementary school on Brantingham Road in south Richland will serve that area's growing suburbs.
Knodel will present designs for the schools to the board Aug. 13. The three schools in central Richland will share a similar two-story design. The new school in south Richland will be limited to a single level because of building restrictions and the possibility of a high water table at the construction site.
Richland's bond also is paying for safety improvements at Fran Rish Stadium, a new heating and cooling system at Chief Joseph Middle School, a partial rebuilding of Jefferson Elementary School, a new home for the district's alternative Three Rivers HomeLink school and a new middle school.
The neighboring Pasco School District also is building several elementary schools with a bond and is expected to finish the first one a year ahead of the Richland projects.
Richland district officials said they have a longer timeline because they didn't do as much prepwork for the new schools before the bond passed.
"I would have liked us to push for next year and it's not possible with the state process," said Richland School Board Chairman Rick Jansons.
Pasco and Richland passed their bonds in the same election in February. Pasco began adapting the elementary school prototype plan it has used in the past and took any other steps it could before the vote.
The Richland board could have taken the same approach, Jansons said, but waited until voters approved the bond to avoid increased costs. Advanced planning can save time, but if voters reject a bond, a district has to start over again, and that includes paying staff to overhaul designs and file paperwork.
"(Pasco) made a wager the bond would pass," Jansons said.
Opening all the schools at once means no student will have to be moved more than once, Jansons said.
The district also has accounted for other needs by not accelerating the design and building process, the chairman said. State lawmakers decided in June to make full-day kindergarten a priority. The board expanded the central Richland projects to provide enough classrooms in coming years to accommodate that decision.
"Things are progressing exactly the way I want them to," Jansons said.
-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @_tybeaver