Othello school committee asks for facilitator help

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OTHELLO — Members of a committee asked to recommend options to meet facility needs in the Othello School District are asking for help in the form of a facilitator.

Committee chair Ryan Frazier made a report on the committee’s progress to the Othello School Board at its Oct. 22 meeting. At the top of the committee’s list was a request for a facilitator with experience in school construction.

The committee was formed in the wake of a cost analysis of a plan to convert the district’s four elementary schools and McFarland Middle School to kindergarten through eighth grade. The projected cost was more than $30 million, and the analysis did not include any provision for projected growth.

The 25-person committee was asked to determine the district’s needs when it comes to facilities, and to recommend at least two options to address them. It will report to the school board each month.

The committee was supposed to establish a timetable for its final report, but Frazier said the committee’s not ready for that yet. “What we need is – the biggest one is time. This kind of structure, doing this much work, it takes up a decent amount of time.” It’s a big task, he said, bigger than committee members may have realized at first.

That led to the request for some expert advice. “We do have a few members on the committee that have some experience in this, but overall we’re a lot of greenhorns on there.” The facilitator would be asked to come up with a “scope and sequence, basically a game plan,” and help prepare the committee’s final report. “We feel we need an expert, someone that has been through this process before, or something like it.”

Committee members proposed recommending some candidates to the board and let them make the selection. “Realistically, if someone is putting this much time in, there probably should be someone getting paid for it,” Frazier said.

In answer to a question from board member Jenn Stevenson, Frazier said committee members thought the facilitator should not be on the committee. Board member Mike Garza asked about options, in addition to construction experts and architects.

Superintendent Chris Hurst said district officials worked with ESD 112, Vancouver, earlier this year, and there are some low-cost, and possibly no-cost, alternatives. “There are options out there that we can present to the committee, and the committee can decide.”

Board member Tony Ashton said he was willing to let the committee decide, but that its members should come back to the board before making a decision, especially if a fee is involved.

Board chair Rob Simmons asked Frazier about a timeline for the committee’s recommendations. Frazier said the committee hasn’t really addressed that yet.

Ashton is a member of the committee, “I think the sense of the committee is they want to take their time and not rush. They want to take their time and do it right.”

Some of the projects proposed might require a construction bond, Simmons said, but others might not.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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