Othello school facilities conversation continues

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File photo - Othello School District facility committee chair Ryan Frazier detailed the committee’s conclusions at the Othello School Board in December.

OTHELLO — While a construction bond proposal was rejected in February, the conversation still continues about addressing facility needs in the Othello School District.

The $61.4 million bond proposal was rejected by voters in a special election in February. The bond would’ve paid for fifth elementary school, a second junior high, and extensive remodeling and expansion at Othello High School.

The proposal actually received more than 50 percent of the vote, 748 yes votes to 657 no votes, or 53.24 percent yes. But because it was a revenue measure it required 60 percent yes votes to pass.

In March school district officials announced the district would convert its four elementary schools and McFarland Middle School to a kindergarten through eighth grade system, starting with the 2018-19 school year.

The four elementary schools were changed to kindergarten through sixth grade, with seventh and eighth graders attending the middle school, and the preschool housed at MMF.

The proposal aroused a lot of comment, positive and negative, from district patrons, and some questions about whether the existing elementary schools could house three additional grades. To answer those questions district officials commissioned a review of the existing facilities, with the report delivered in August. The estimate was $32.6 million, and did not include any provision for growth in the district.

Board members started a committee to review the district’s facility needs, and recommend at least two options. The committee started meeting in October and made its recommendation in December.

The first option included gymnasiums at three of the district’s elementary schools, more classrooms at Othello High School and the existing elementary schools, a separate preschool facility, additional food storage at the elementary schools and Desert Oasis High School, The committee also recommended two more locker rooms at OHS and a central warehouse for food storage.

The second option included everything in the first option, as well as a multipurpose room at each of the elementaries, a new gym (which would include the locker rooms) and auditorium at OHS, music rooms and additional PE space at the elementaries.

The Othello School Board has scheduled a workshop for Jan. 7 to discuss the committee’s recommendations, and decide the next step.

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

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