Positive coronavirus test stops one school project, spares others

West Richland’s Tapteal Elementary will not open as planned this fall after construction stopped when a worker tested positive for the new coronavirus, which causes the deadly COVID-19.

The shutdown is sending a ripple through the Richland School District’s construction schedule.

Fowler Construction, the Richland contractor for the $20 million project, had previously informed the district the pandemic was causing delays, it said. The Tapteal shutdown means construction of a new Badger Mountain Elementary is on hold for the time being.

School construction in neighboring Kennewick and Pasco was on schedule on April 24.

The new Tapteal Elementary was supposed to open in August at 705 N. 62nd Ave., the same site of the old school. The 65,500-square-foot building will have 28 regular classrooms, three special education services rooms and other school amenities, such as a multipurpose room, library, gym and art and music places.

The shutdown is spilling into the next project on the Richland schedule: rebuilding Badger Mountain Elementary.

Tapteal students and staff will remain in their temporary quarters at Belmont Boulevard and Keene Road.

With Tapteal unable to move out, the Badger Mountain Elementary crew cannot move in. The schools of course are closed for the balance of the school year by Gov. Jay Inslee as part of the statewide effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

With no building available for Badger Mountain, the district opted not to invite contractors to bid on the work.

“The district remains fully committed to rebuilding Badger Mountain Elementary as affirmed by the Richland School Board this past winter. District officials will continue to work closely with the Tapteal contractor to ensure the new building is completed with a new schedule and provide updates to all of you regarding the status and any further changes,” the district said in a statement.

The COVID-19 crisis has not affected progress at three Kennewick School District construction sites and is even speeding up two others.

Spokeswoman Robyn Chastain said the rebuild Kennewick High School, Amistad Elementary and the Tri-Tech Skills Center are on schedule. Amistad Phase 1 and the Tri-Tech Skills Center expansion are both due to wrap up this summer.

The Kennewick High School rebuild continues through 2021.

Chastain said construction of additions at Kamiakin and Southridge high schools started earlier than expected because students and staff are not on campus.

The Pasco School District said its construction projects have not experienced the issues that stopped the Tapteal project, according to spokesman Shane Edinger.

The district has three active school construction projects, all funded by a bond authorized by voters in 2017 and state matching funds:

  • The $28.5 million Columbia River Elementary project broke ground last June and is expected to open for the 2020-21 school year.
  • The $39.7 million Stevens Middle School replacement began last August and is due to be complete in December.
  • The new $46.5 million Ray Reynolds Middle School broke ground last May and is expected to open for the 2020-21 school year.



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