Othello School Board to convene community committee

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OTHELLO — The Othello School Board will form a community committee to study the district’s facilities and make recommendations to accommodate future needs, possibly including a new construction bond. That followed the release of a draft analysis that estimated it would take about $32.6 million to convert the district’s four existing elementary schools and McFarland Middle School to a kindergarten through eighth grade format. The report was discussed at a special board meeting and workshop Saturday morning.

No time frame was given for establishing the committee. Board chair Rob Simmons said board member Tony Ashton will “bring that (recommendation) to us in the future.”

The move to K-8 will begin with the next school year, which starts later this month. Othello’s elementary schools were K-5 schools; for 2018-19, they will be K-6 schools.

Ashton recommended starting a committee after getting the analysis, saying any remodeling and associated expenditures are “not something the board can approve anyway.

“This would require a bond or public approval for that kind of amount. The board just couldn’t say ‘we approve this plan’ and start spending money without some kind of a vote,” Ashton said.

Ashton was asked to come back to the board with a proposal. “I think a committee would be a good idea. But it has to be very clear and concise what the intent of that committee is,” said board member Jenn Stevenson.

The analysis reviewed the buildings in their current configuration, and what would be necessary to convert the existing schools to K-8. Simmons said in his opinion the estimates envisioned a more elaborate project than the district actually needed.

District officials set out a plan, said assistant superintendent Pete Perez, and the consultants were asked to determine what it would take to implement that plan. Architectural consultants then determined how much space would be needed. “This is (the) first attempt. This is not the end product,” Perez said. It’s up to district patrons to determine what they will pay for, and what Othello can afford, he said.

Board member Ken Johnson said he thought the K-8 plan needed to be part of a larger plan, looking at district needs over at least 10 years. A 10-year plan facility plan is part of district policy. The space analysis identified extensive remodeling so the buildings would work as K-8 schools, he said. In his opinion that work needs to be completed before seventh and eighth graders move to the existing elementary schools, and the remodeled MMS. Otherwise “I don’t think it’s progressing in the right way,” Johnson said.

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