Othello facility committee makes recommendation

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Cheryl Schweizer/Sun Tribune - Othello School District committee chair Ryan Frazier and committee members detailed their recommendations at the Othello School Board meeting Wednesday.

OTHELLO — Othello School Board members will hold a workshop at 6 p.m. Jan. 7 to discuss the recommendations of a committee tasked with reviewing facility needs in the Othello School District.

Committee members presented their report at the Dec. 19 school board meeting, after two months of discussion and research. The recommendations will work whether or not the district continues with a plan to convert the four existing elementary schools and McFarland Middle School to kindergarten through eighth grade. Currently the elementary schools are kindergarten through sixth grade, and MMF houses seventh and eighth grades, and the district’s preschool program. “Whether it’s K-6 or K-8, this list applies for both,” said committee chair Ryan Frazier.

Committee members were asked to come up with two recommendations. Cost estimate for the first option is $30 million, but that doesn’t include the costs of a separate preschool, Frazier said. The estimate does include costs associated with construction, called “soft costs.” The second option was estimated at $53 million. Both lists prioritized the proposed projects.

The first option included new gyms at Lutacaga, Hiawatha and Scootney Springs elementary schools, 21 revamped classrooms at Othello High School, additional food storage at the three elementary schools and Desert Oasis High School, a central warehouse for food storage and a separate preschool facility. The first option also included a second set of locker rooms at OHS and 24 permanent classrooms at the district’s existing elementary schools. In answer to a question from board member Ken Johnson, Frazier said the elementary classrooms would replace the existing portables. If the decision is made to keep the preschool at MMS, that building would need six new classrooms.

The second option includes everything in the first option, although some of the projects in the first option would be rolled into projects added to the second option. The second option would add a multipurpose room at each elementary school, a 1,500-seat auditorium at OHS, a second competition gym at OHS (which would include the locker rooms proposed in the first option), music rooms and improved PE facilities at the elementary schools, a new staff lounge at Hiawatha and a conference room at Wahitis.

The committee was proposed in August and formed in September, in the wake of a report on the possible costs associated with a K-8 conversion. The bill was an estimated $32 million, not including any provisions for growth. That prompted school board members to form the facility committee to look at space needs for a conversion, and over the next five years.

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

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