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MLSD board members to decide how to accommodate growth

by R. HANS MILLER
Staff Writer | January 17, 2022 1:05 AM

Phil Crocker of Teater-Crocker, Inc. – a planning consultant for the Moses Lake School District – delivered a presentation during the school board’s Thursday meeting on needs the district is facing in the next few years as the district’s student body continues to grow.

“(Interim superintendent Carole Meyer) asked me to give you a brief update – a high-level overview – of the elementary school (Long Range Planning Committee findings from) last year for this small community,” Crocker said.

Crocker said the committee was formed early in 2021 and met four times – Jan. 11, Jan. 25, March 8 and June 2 – to discuss the needs of the district. The committee included two elementary principals, the superintendent, a board member, the district’s chief operating officer and two community members. After accounting for the needs of the district and growing enrollment, the committee recommended the immediate replacement of two portable classrooms; another two portables need to be replaced in the next 10 years, and 18 portables do in 15 years – meaning 22 of the district’s 26 portables need to be replaced. The committee is also recommending additional gymnasiums to campuses and at least one 450-student elementary school added as a replacement for an unspecified campus, which could potentially be used as an early learning center.

The three options associated with those recommendations have varying benefits and costs, Crocker said. If a new, twelfth, elementary school is built within the next seven years, it could add 428 students to the district’s overall capacity of 3,917 elementary students. The estimated cost for the new campus is about $27 million. Adding gymnasiums, cafeteria and music space at four elementary campuses would not add capacity, but would allow for fewer lunch periods and more physical education, which the district is falling short on, according to state standards, at a cost of about $28 million, he said. The third option of replacing portables would cost about $1.2 million in the next seven years and an additional roughly $1.2 million in eight to 15 years. The costs for each of these options will likely increase if the district fails to move quickly, due to supply chain issues caused by the pandemic.

Overall, the committee recommended adding the new elementary campus to reduce the use of portables by about 25%, Crocker said.

Expansion of the gyms, cafeterias and music spaces as a second option would be allocated to Garden Heights, Lakeview, Knolls Vista and Larson Heights elementary schools, according to Crocker’s presentation. Generally, additional restrooms, custodial spaces and food services facilities may be added as gymnasium facilities are expanding, thus making the upgrades to the campuses more efficient, Crocker said.

The cost for a portable classroom is about $400,000 to $750,000, Crocker said. The two buildings in immediate need of replacement are located at Midway Elementary School, according to his presentation.

The goal for the committee was to evaluate the district’s needs and improve educational outcomes, Crocker said. By reducing portable usage and adding capacity to the district’s campuses, he was hopeful class sizes would remain manageable as the district’s student body grows. The goal was to keep a 22-student average for classroom size, he said. In the current school year, the total elementary enrollment for MLSD is 4,267 students. By the 2025-26 school year, that number is projected to rise to 4,612.

Meyer said the Long Range Planning Committee is set to meet again on Jan. 28 to examine the next steps in planning for the district’s future needs. She added board member Susan Freeman would be participating in the committee.

“We’ll recreate a team, bring the band back together and start working on next steps,” Meyer said.