Here’s what we think of the Kennewick School District bond proposal

Plans are to build a new Kennewick High School at the same downtown location.
Plans are to build a new Kennewick High School at the same downtown location. Tri-City Herald

The pipeline of students headed for high school in the Kennewick School District is beyond a steady stream — it’s more like a gusher.

After building new elementary schools and middle schools over the past 10 years, the school district is now focusing on the need for more classroom space at its three high schools.

Ballots for the $125 million bond proposal are expected to arrive in mailboxes this week for the Feb. 12 election, and we wholeheartedly encourage voters to approve the measure.

This proposal is easy to support.

The need is great and Kennewick school leaders have a history of managing bond money well. In addition, the cost to taxpayers is expected to be less than what they currently are paying for schools.

The state changed its education funding system last year, capping local school levy amounts. For example, in 2017 district taxpayers paid $7.17 per $1,000 of assessed property value for schools.

Even with the bond, they are expected to pay $6.64 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2019, and $6.94 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2020.

Kennewick School Superintendent Dave Bond is calling the bond request a “once in a lifetime” opportunity and we agree.

In the past decade, the district has grown by more than 3,500 students and is now up to nearly 19,000, making it the largest school district in Southeast Washington, according to school district leaders.

And there is no sign that the growth will be slowing any time soon.

What it will pay for

The bond covers many projects, but the biggest expense and greatest priority is replacing Kennewick High School. The aging, cramped building dates to the ‘50s. While there has been some remodeling over the years, the “guts” of the building are the same, according to Bond.

Plans are to build a new Kennewick High at the same downtown location, but the two-story building will be turned so the front faces Sixth Avenue instead of Dayton Street. The existing Lion’s Den gym and auditorium will be connected to the new building, and new safety features will be added.

The bond proposal also includes adding 12 more classrooms at Kamiakin and Southridge High Schools, and replacing grass fields at both schools with artificial turf. That way more sporting events can be played at home high schools in addition to Lampson Stadium.

At Kamiakin, bleachers, a concession facility and outside restrooms are also planned, and Southridge is to get a new weight room.

A new Kennewick High and the additions at Kamiakin and Southridge will increase capacity at each high school to 2,000 students., which is desperately needed, school officials say.

Bond said school leaders did not think the time was right to consider building a fourth high school, so adding capacity to the three existing high schools was seen as the best approach.

The bond also would replace Amistad Elementary School, build a new elementary school at a site yet to be determined and remodel or replace Ridge View Elementary School.

More information about the school bond can be found on the school district’s web site, and preliminary drawings are available to view.

Voters have supported new elementary and middle schools in the past decade and it only makes sense to now support that growing enrollment at the high school level.