Richland School District chooses sites for new district office, elementary school

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The Richland School Board will build its new Teaching, Learning, and Administration Center in West Richland and its 12th elementary south of Badger Mountain.

The board made the decisions at the Jan. 9 school board meeting.

The new $10 million Teaching, Learning, and Administration Center, or TLAC, would replace the aging 70-year-old administration building on Snow Avenue.

The new $24 million elementary school will be within the Badger Mountain South development, near Richland’s Country Mercantile. The school district expects 5,000 homes and 15,000 residents in the area when the development is completed.

The two projects were among 10 others included in a February 2017 bond. The $99 million ballot measure received 62 percent approval in the election.

Timelines for the two projects have not yet been set and project costs are estimates.

The new TLAC will be built off Keene Road, adjacent to the West Richland’s newest school, Leona Libby Middle School.

The district said its current administration building has a lack of meeting space for training or conferences.

A delay on the site selection for the TLAC put the design process on hold for months. The district was considering two properties it already owned and one it considered buying.

The two sites owned by the district included the chosen site next to the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) middle school which opened last fall. This area was considered the most ideal of the three options because of its size and proximity to current and future school sites, according to a district staff report.

The district also expects future development within its boundaries to be heavily concentrated in this area. Site preparations already were completed during the construction of Libby, which included environmental assessments and utility access.

The TLAC will be built on a portion of the 70 acres the district owns and intends to use for a future high school.

The Richland School District’s again administration building on Snow Avenue will be replaced by a new $10 million Teaching, Learning, and Administration Center near Leona Libby Middle School in West Richland.
The Richland School District’s again administration building on Snow Avenue will be replaced by a new $10 million Teaching, Learning, and Administration Center near Leona Libby Middle School in West Richland.

The district believes building its administration office near other schools will provide the same benefits currently found by having the Snow Avenue office near three schools, as well as easing the demand for parking during evening events.

Master planning on the district’s planned fourth high school will take place at the same time the planning is done for the new TLAC. The land adjacent to Libby is part of a 10-year financing plan which includes the option of an early payoff. The board intends to potentially modify the financing to make use of the unused portion.

Any leftover money earmarked for the project may be considered for up to six classrooms at the TLAC. The superintendent reported a need for classrooms separate from a school which may be used for special education tutoring rooms for students unable to be served at school, work classrooms for transition students who need a business-like setting, or alternative classrooms for students who are suspended or expelled but mandated to receive an education despite removal from their assigned school.

Before settling on the Libby location, the district also considered property on Keene Road near the Bombing Range roundabout due to its ability to “easily accommodate new construction.”

The board had two conceptual site plans for a layout of the TLAC on this land, but were concerned about limitations on future expansion at the site. Also, a homeowners’ association covenant may have limited options on building design and landscaping.

The district also had made an offer on property owned by Bethel Church for about 10 acres on Shockley Road near Queensgate Drive. This option was considered the least attractive due to associated costs, according to a district memo to the board.

The land was undergoing environmental testing before the purchase was finalized, and an appraiser estimated it would cost at least $1.5 million to develop the site, not including the construction of the building. This estimate included excavation and site prep, which would have required moving an irrigation pond and resolving “significant” drainage issues.

Richland School District Superintendent Rick Schulte also expressed concerns in a memo to the board “the responsible government agencies would designate part of the site as wetland, adding some unknown restrictions and costs.”

Shulte also reported that “project managers and real estate professionals we have consulted view this site as a poor location for a TLAC.”

The district’s purchase and sale agreement with Bethel included a 180-day timeline to complete a due diligence study of the land. That purchase will no longer be completed.

Richland School District’s 12th elementary school will be located within the Badger Mountain South development, near Richland’s Country Mercantile and neighborhoods already being built.

Building a school on property the district already owns will alleviate the need to bus about 60 current students from the area to White Bluffs Elementary School.

A targeted groundbreaking and completion will be identified when the design process is completed.

Robin Wojtanik

Robin Wojtanik

Robin Wojtanik spent most of her career in broadcast journalism, working at television stations around the country. She spent nearly a decade managing newsrooms in the Tri-Cities and Yakima.
She enjoys volunteering for Junior Achievement and Christ the King School and serves on the board for the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Northwest chapter. She lives in
Richland with her husband and children.

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