The Longview School Board Monday evening approved four construction projects with an estimated total cost of nearly $300,000, but one of them gave a board member momentary pause.

The projects, which will be undertaken this summer, are:

  • Resurfacing the 400-meter track at Mark Morris High School, $209,000.
  • Installing a handicap lift at Longview Memorial Stadium, $35,000.
  • Upgrading the lighting at Olympic Elementary School, $50,000.
  • “Balancing” the HVAC system at Robert Gray Elementary to make sure it works as needed. District maintenance staff will do the work instead of hiring a contractor at bid cost of $50,000.

Board Vice President Barb Westrick asked why the district plans to upgrade lights at Olympic, noting that the elementary was a target for replacement under the $121.6 million bond that voters narrowly turned down in November.

The district might run the bond again, Westrick said. “I don’t want to spend money that we don’t need to spend. On the other hand, we have to keep up stuff in case things don’t happen.”

Facilities Manager Troy Lomax said lighting upgrades would pay for themselves through savings in electric costs. He also noted that the school’s lighting is inadequate and that unsafe wiring needs to be replaced.

In other business:

  • Title I Director Mary Carr-Wilt told the board that the district’s population of students with unstable housing has increased since last year. Though only 365 students were homeless as of Feb. 5, trends suggest that number will jump to 575 by July, about 60 more students than last year. Once a student qualifies for assistance, they remain on the chart and receive service through the end of the school year, even if their living situation changes. Carr-Wilt noted that there are about 25 school staff that help homeless students. “We’re doing the best to help them navigate school while they’re in a very unstable system,” she said.
  • Members from Educational Service District (ESD) 112 presented a distinction award to R.A. Long High School for the third year in a row for improving its graduation rate. For the 2017 graduating class, the school reported a 94.3 percent graduation rate. In comparison, a little more than half of students graduated in the 2009–10 school year. Lori Oberheide of ESD 112 stressed that R.A. Long’s success comes from its culture. Principal Rich Reeves said the success is due to “kids buying into a system, buying into a culture. Kids are going to flourish in a place they care about and know people care about them.”
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