A fourth Pasco middle school is in, while a 17th elementary school may be out.
Pasco school board members set a $100 million limit for their next proposed bond measure following a nearly two hour-discussion this week.
They also agreed to build a new middle school before constructing a second new elementary school.
The district was hashing out the details for a bond measure they want to put in front of voters during November’s general election. To get on that ballot, the board must approve a resolution before Aug. 1.
The district’s previous $69.5 million measure failed to get enough votes to reach the 60 percent approval needed to pass.
That proposal included building two new elementary schools, rebuilding Stevens Middle School and a series of other improvements around the district.
The district has since enlisted MGT Consulting Group for a plan for the next bond. The consultants are working on a long-range facility plan, including when the district should pursue bonds for new buildings and growth projections.
People will be more supportive if they see when we’re going to do things. Let’s run what we know that we need.
Steve Christensen, Pasco school board
The consultants enlisted a group of about 30 people, called the Community Builders, to help with both the long-range and short-term plans.
The group recommended a $104-million bond for two new elementary schools, a fourth middle school and rebuilding Stevens Middle School.
Many in the community cited the lack of a new middle school as the reason the bond failed. The complaints focused on McLoughlin, which MGT Consulting reports is at 120 percent of its capacity.
Board member Steve Christensen said he wants the district to wait for MGT’s final plan before pursuing a bond for a fourth middle school.
He said it would be easier to present the idea to the public if they showed a longer-term plan. He pointed to Richland’s recently passed $99 million bond that was based on a facilities master plan.
“People will be more supportive if they see when we’re going to do things,” he said. “Let’s run what we know that we need.”
Board member Aaron Richardson said the district should be more ambitious with its bond proposal. If it can include a fifth middle school, it should, he said.
We can’t keep doing these little bonds because we have these problems because of these wimpy bonds.
Aaron Richardson, Pasco school board
“We’re just doing the same thing we’ve done for last 10 years. ... We can’t keep doing these little bonds because we have these problems because of these wimpy bonds,” he said.
The other three board members supported building a new middle school, along with moving the sixth-grade out of the elementary schools, but did not want the total cost of the bond pass $100 million.
While the middle schools would still be crowded, board member Amy Phillips said the move would create more space for students in the middle school to participate in extracurricular activities since there would be fewer children per grade level.
With the taxpayers paying an estimated $39 million for the new middle school, it would bring the potential total to more than $80 million when combined with the estimated cost to rebuild Stevens Middle School and add an elementary school.
If the district added the additional elementary school, it would push the estimate above the $100 million mark.
The school board decided to move sixth-graders after the February 2011 bond failed.
While it’s not immediately clear how much space it would add back, MGT predicts moving the students would ease more than half of the overcrowding at the elementaries.