More students mean more schools
By Stacey Denny
As the Tri-Cities’ population swells, so have its schools and classrooms.
The start to the 2017-18 school year saw student enrollment increases at each of the Kennewick, Pasco and Richland school districts.
Kennewick saw the biggest student enrollment increase with 455 more students, for a total of 18,016 students.
Pasco School District added 288 students for a total of 18,033 students.
Richland School District added 368 students for a total of 13,635 students.
These September enrollment numbers are preliminary because districts don’t report final tallies to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction until Oct. 1.
With the continued surge of students comes new schools.
Kennewick and Richland school districts completed major construction projects in the past year and more are looming on the horizon, especially if Pasco School District voters approve a $99.5 million bond in the November election.
Kennewick School District
Kennewick recently completed the construction of Westgate Elementary School, a new facilities services building and Chinook Middle School.
The projects planned for completion in the 2017-18 school year include Tri-Tech Skills Center’s east building, Elementary School No. 16 and Dual Language Elementary School No. 17.
The Tri-Tech building will be a detached building east of the current school. It will provide room for existing programs at Tri-Tech and for new programs related to manufacturing.
The $3.8 million building will feature 10,200 square feet of space for classrooms, workshops and offices. It’s expected to be completed in August 2018.
Elementary School No. 16 is under construction at 18 Rachel Road in the Clearwater Creek development. Estimated construction cost is $20 million.
The 76,664-square-foot school will feature 38 classrooms, a gym, cafeteria, library, music room, flexible learning space, computer lab, two reading rooms and playground.
The project was initially funded by a bond approved by voters in February 2015.
The Kennewick School Board approved the expansion of the school’s original 26-classroom design after receiving a K-3 class size reduction grant from the state aimed at reducing student-to-teacher ratios in kindergarten through third grade. It’s one of three projects the grant will pay for.
The second is for Elementary School No. 17, a dual language school, which will be at 6011 W. 10th Place, the former site of Desert Hills Middle School.
The $18.4 million, 66,338-square-foot school will have 30 classrooms and an enlarged gym. The design will be based on the design of the new Westgate and Elementary School No. 16.
Both elementary schools are expected to be ready for students by fall 2018.
The grant also will pay for a 20-classroom addition at Amistad Elementary that will open in fall 2019. Cost for this project is $12 million.
Pasco School District
Pasco School District’s enrollment has grown by more than 8,000 students since 2000, or an average each year of 600 students.
The district’s current enrollment for kindergarten through eighth-grade students is nearly 2,300 students over the district’s current capacity.
The district has a laundry list of construction projects to start in the 2017-18 school year, but many of them hinge on voters approving a $99.5 million bond in the Nov. 7 election, said Shane Edinger, spokesman for the district.
The proposed bond would pay for land for future schools, two new elementary schools, one north of Chiawana High School on Road 84 and the other on Burns Road between Road 90 and Broadmoor Boulevard. Both schools would be 72,000 square feet, accommodate 800 students each and cost about $28 million.
The proposed bond also would:
- Replace the aging Stevens Middle School and add additional space to serve 1,000 students. Cost is $39.7 million.
- Pay for a new $46.5 million middle school, the district’s fourth, on Burns Road. The 115,000-square-foot school would house about 1,100 students.
- Pay for $1.7 million in school safety and security improvements at Angelou, Captain Gray STEM, Chess, Frost, Livingston, Longfellow, Markham, McGee, Robinson, Twain and Whittier elementary schools; Ochoa and McLoughlin middle schools; and Chiawana High School; and roof replacements at Captain Gray and Markham.
- Pay for $3 million improvements to the district’s transportation and maintenance facilities, including adding two pull-through bus mechanic bays, replacing transportation office and drivers’ areas with a single, insulated, metal building and updating the current maintenance facility.
The current tax rate for bond debt repayment is $2.25 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $225 per year for a $100,000 home. The 2017 bond would add an estimated 59 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. For a $200,000 home, it would be an estimated additional $118 per year, or $9.84 per month.
The bond needs more than 60 percent approval to pass.
Richland School District
The Richland School District broke ground on a new Jefferson Elementary School in April and expects to complete it by August 2018.
Leona Libby, the district’s fourth middle school, opened this fall.
Both projects were paid for with a voter-approved $98 million bond in 2013, along with $62 million in state matching money.
The new Jefferson school will be 65,000 square feet and house 630 students. The Richland School Board opted to rebuild the school instead of just the 1952 wing after receiving the additional state funding.
West Richland’s second middle school opened in August. The $35 million Leona Libby Middle School is at 3259 Belmont Blvd. The 108,000-square-foot school can house 800 students in grades six through nine on the 30-acre campus.
The district also will see $141 million in construction projects in the coming years after voters approved a $99 million construction bond in February.
The projects include $42 million in state matching money.
Here’s what’s planned:
- Replace Badger Mountain Elementary School in Richland and Tapteal Elementary School in West Richland. Cost for both schools is $51.2 million. The 1978 buildings are too small and inefficient, and electrical and mechanical systems are failing. The current 48,000-square-foot buildings will grow to 65,000 square feet.
- Build two new elementary schools, a $48 million combined project: a new elementary school on Belmont Boulevard in West Richland and a new elementary school in south Richland, at a site to be determined.
- Make $8 million in auditorium improvements at Richland High School. Work includes replacing 1,500 seats, adding 800-square-feet of restrooms, adding a center aisle and replacing stage curtains, riggings, wood floor, sound and lighting systems.
- Make $10 million in home-side improvements and install field turf at Fran Rish Stadium at Richland High School. The home side bleachers, locker rooms and restrooms don’t meet health and safety codes, the track needs resurfacing and the grass field can host about 10 varsity football games per year but no playoff games.
- Make $6 million in athletic field improvements, including installing bleachers, restrooms and field turf at Hanford High.
- Build a new $10 million district teaching/learning/administrative center to replace a 70-year-old building that isn’t big enough to house the central administration departments.
- The Jefferson Elementary 1982 wing will be repurposed into a $1.4 million preschool center.
- Classroom additions and land purchases totaling $7 million.
The district also hopes to receive $42 million in state assistance funds to complete these projects.
“We have seen massive growth, and these construction projects are imperative,” said Steve Aagaard, district spokesman.