Committee seeks building options

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald Othello school facility members ask questions about past bond proposals and current valuations at the first meeting Monday.

OTHELLO — A committee tasked with finding options to meet facility needs in the Othello School District will hold its second meeting at 6 p.m. Oct. 1. The committee’s first meeting was Monday.

Ryan Frazier, a teacher at Desert Oasis High School, was chosen as the committee chair, and Jessica Brooks, a district patron with kids in school, was chosen as vice-chair. The committee will meet on the first and third Monday of each month until its job is done. Committee members will be asked to recommend at least two options for facilities to house anticipated student growth and the transition to kindergarten through eighth grade elementaries.

It’s up to the committee to establish a deadline for its report, which will be submitted to the Othello School Board.

Othello voters rejected a construction bond in February, and Tony Ashton, who’s on the committee, said the lessons from that rejection are the starting point. “From my view, there’s no reason to re-do something that didn’t pass before, so we should look at the stuff that didn’t work and make sure we don’t recommend it.”

Committee members asked about the school construction process, and paying for building schools. It involves locally-approved construction bonds, money from the state school construction funds, and a lot of formulas to determine how much money the state will contribute. Rob Simmons, who was part of the last successful effort to pass a bond in 2006, said the estimates used by state officials underestimate the actual cost.

District officials already have started the move to K-8, turning the elementaries into K-6 schools for the current school year. Brooks asked about the possibility the committee would find K-8 less feasible. Ashton said the goal should be to build structures that could be adapted for any use. He cited Scootney Springs Elementary as an example, which has been reconfigured multiple times during its life. “To say we’re building a K-8 school is fine, except 10 years from now it might be a middle school. We’re building buildings, and the use of the building is a whole different conversation.”

But, said David Spencer, the design of any building will be influenced by its intended use, and has to fit the teaching goals. The design doesn’t matter “if we’re not taking into account what we’re trying to do in the classroom,” Spencer said. Spencer is a district administrator, and was chosen by other district administrators to represent them on the committee.

The committee also includes five parents with kids in school, five district patrons with no ties to school, representatives from each school, one principal, mayor Shawn Logan (representing the city) and two school board members.

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