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New high school estimated to cost $65 million

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | October 12, 2020 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — The Moses Lake School District’s new high school, informally known as Real World Academy, is expected to cost the district around $65 million.

That includes a budget for materials and labor of $51 million, according to figures presented to the Moses Lake School Board at an online meeting on Thursday.

“That was always the target and budget for the school, and right now we’re about $700,000 below that,” said Kris Jeske, an architect with NAC, a firm designing the new high school, during a presentation to the board on Thursday.

In June, MLSD awarded a construction contract worth $18.2 million to build Groff Elementary, the first of two new elementary schools planned under the revised construction bond passed by voters in February 2017.

The $135 million construction bond called for the creation of a second, 1,600-student high school and an 11th elementary school for the school district. However, after a year-long court challenge to the certification of the election, the district re-evaluated the costs of a large high school and its needs, and after a series of very contentious public hearings, approved building a smaller, 800- to 900-student high school as well as two new elementary schools. Both of the elementary schools will be based on the same architectural design.

Currently, the new high school and Groff Elementary are expected to be built for around $85 million. According to Superintendent Josh Meek, the state will contribute $4.5 million to the construction of Groff Elementary School, and under current formulas, could be expected to contributed around $12 million to $13 million to the construction of the new high school.

That means the total direct cost to district taxpayers for the two schools will be around $68 million.

In 2018, MLSD sold around $50 million in bonds authorized as part of the $135 million in bonds approved by voters.

“I think it’s pretty clear we don’t need to use all of the bond capacity to get these projects done,” Meek said.

“This is a great solution to the community’s needs; it addresses our immediate needs and for the next 20 years, and it does it in a cost-effective way,” said board member Elliott Goodrich, who ran for the board in 2017 in opposition to the original high school plan. “We’re not being wasteful building things that are not needed.”

However, board member Bryce McPartland, who continues to support the construction of a second big high school for the district, said that creating a giant school complex — the new high school will sit on district land between Moses Lake High School and Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center — was something voters specifically rejected in 2017.

“I think it’s a tough sell to say this is a separate high school,” he said. “This new building has to be something separate from Moses Lake High School. The bond and the resolution say separate high school.”

The district is scheduled to hold a special online neighborhood meeting Tuesday evening, Oct. 13, for residents who live near the site of the proposed new high school. The meeting, which will take place on Zoom, is set to begin at 7 p.m. The link to the meeting is mlsd161-org.zoom.us/j/92031905122, and the phone number for those wishing to call in is 253-215-8782.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.