Sunday, February 28, 2021

Construction underway at Ephrata's Columbia Ridge Elementary

Staff Writer | January 18, 2021 1:00 AM

EPHRATA — The foundation is going in for the new office and entryway, classrooms and second gym at Columbia Ridge Elementary, and a hallway in the existing building is blocked off, with remodeling in the classrooms.

The additions and remodeling at Columbia Ridge are part of a $27.89 million construction bond approved by Ephrata School District voters in 2019. Ephrata Superintendent Tim Payne said district officials discovered Ephrata was eligible for about $46 million in state construction funds, about $40 million more than anticipated. The extra money necessitated reviewing the project and enlarging the scope of work, Payne said.

Columbia Ridge will get eight new classrooms, new gym and new office, as well as remodeled existing classrooms. Construction also is underway on a complete remodel at Ephrata Middle School, including a second gym and a new library.

The office is being remodeled at Parkway Elementary School, and the building is getting additional security cameras.

Grant Elementary School also will get a complete remodel, and upgrades are scheduled for the district’s Performing Arts Center, including the PAC gym. Grant Elementary and the PAC upgrades are still in the design stages, Payne said.

“Each building has its own phasing plan,” he said.

The COVID-19 outbreak initially slowed down construction, Payne said, and increased the cost. As a result, district officials combined Columbia Ridge and EMS into one project.

“That made it just affordable,” Payne said.

Total cost for the remodel at the middle school and Columbia Ridge, and new office and security upgrades at Parkway, was estimated at $40.6 million. Fowler Construction, in Richland, is the contractor for the middle school, Parkway and Columbia Ridge.

Of course, remodeling has meant dislocation.

“You can see where it’s boarded off right there,” Payne said, pointing to a blocked hallway at Columbia Ridge Friday morning. “All of those rooms, the six classrooms, are under construction.”

Those six classes are in portable classrooms moved to the opposite side of the building. In addition, the existing gym has been repurposed into three classrooms for kindergarten students.

And, the existing classrooms are getting a makeover.

“We’re talking new windows, plumbing, wiring, paint,” Payne said, and new flooring, heating and air conditioning systems.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at


Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald

Columbia Ridge Elementary kindergarten teacher Jody Clark talks with her students during an online session Friday. Kindergarten classes are being housed in the gym while the school is undergoing remodeling.