Families picking up their children from Jefferson Elementary soon will see the first stages of work begin on a new, larger version of the Richland school.
The school board recently agreed to hire Pasco-based Big D’s Construction for $249,800 to clean up the debris left from the demolition of the 1953 wing of the existing school.
The cleanup work precedes the construction of the 65,000-square-foot new school building, and will allow the district to avoid problems that might slow construction.
Jefferson is the final building included in the district’s $98 million 2013 bond. As part of the bond, the district replaced Lewis and Clark, Marcus Whitman and Sacajawea elementary schools, built Orchard Elementary and is building Leona Libby Middle School.
When they’re finished, the bond will have added 130 new classrooms and replaced 72.
Designs for the interior of the new school mirror the other elementary schools built with the 2013 bond. District officials plan to hire a contractor to begin building the estimated $18 million facility before the end of the school year.
The building is designed to hold roughly 590 students — the older version was capable of holding 452 students, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
District officials predict the school may have four empty classrooms when it opens its doors in August 2018, said Steve Aagaard, the district’s communications director.
The district will have to redraw boundary lines in the next three to four years when our new elementary schools open, so those extra classrooms at Jefferson will be utilized then and possibly before then with district growth.
Steve Aagaard, communications director
School board President Rick Jansons said he would be surprised if the classrooms remain unused. The district’s student population is on a steady upward trend. Between 2011 and 2016, about 2,000 more students started class in the district. The question is where they will come from.
Getting students from a different school to fill the classrooms would require busing them across town to the school on George Washington Way, Aagaard said. Families would likely protest sending their children to a different school.
“The district will have to redraw boundary lines in the next three to four years when our (two) new elementary schools open, so those extra classrooms at Jefferson will be utilized then and possibly before then with district growth,” Aagaard said.
The new west and south Richland elementary schools were included in a $99 million voters approved in February. Part of the same February bond will pay for renovating the 1982 wing of Jefferson so it can house preschool programs, Jansons said.
“We’re going to reuse the classrooms that we have. That’s pretty good value to get another 20 years of life out of the building,” he said.