Combining Longview’s two high schools into a single campus would cost $7 million, and other parts of a citizens committee plan to make Longview a one-high school town could drive the cost to nearly $20 million, according to an architects estimate.
Some of the costs of establishing a one campus high school at the R.A. Long and Monticello location include adding two gyms, expanding parking and connecting the communications infrastructure.
But there would be savings, too, architect Scott Rose told the 48-member School District’s Facilities Planning Committee Thursday night. A single campus would make duplicate classes redundant and eliminate hourly shuttle buses for district courses, he said.
“I can see it in your eyes — ‘He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. You can’t combine two schools!’ ” said Rose, who has guided other districts through the process. “I get that. I’ve been there.”
Combining two high schools into one raises dozens of questions about costs, savings, class sizes, academics, athletics and the community’s willingness to merge schools that have competed fiercely, have sharp class and demographic differences and which have large and loyal alumni populations.
Any school board decision on the matter is likely months away and will be contentious, but the process is driven by a steady decline in enrollment. Enrollment has fallen 1,300 students since 1999 and forecast to decline another 100 — to 6,100 — by 2018. That’s a loss of 1,400 students, more than the entire population of either high school.
“Falling enrollment is really the impetus that’s driven this,” Longview School Board president Jerry Stinger said Friday. “By losing these kids, we’re also losing the funding we need to keep those schools viable. To consolidate or make our buildings less of a financial burden is a prudent thing.”
He said the board will wait until the citizens committee makes its final recommendation — at either the second meeting in January or the first meeting in February — before looking more deeply into costs.
The committee considered four concepts Thursday night. Options 1A and 1B had the most support.
• Convert R.A. Long and Monticello to a single high school campus, with grades 11-12 at RAL and 9-10 at Monticello. Add two gyms to RAL. Cost: $7.4 million.
• Convert Mark Morris to a regional vocational skills center. Move administration, preschool and On Track programs there. Close and demolish Lilac Street administration and Harding buildings. Sell Broadway. Cost: $7.2 million.
• Divide grades 6-8 between Cascade and Mount Solo middle schools, add four classrooms to each. Cost: $2.7 million.
• Convert under-capacity areas at Columbia Heights, Columbia Valley Gardens, Kessler, Mint Valley, Olympic and St. Helens elementaries to flexible learning labs. No changes at Northlake and Robert Gray. Cost: $1.5 million.
Total estimated cost: $19.8 million.
• Same as Option 1A except remodel Northlake slightly to support preschool.
Total estimated cost: $18.8 million.
• Demolish Mark Morris and Northlake and build a multi-story high school. Cost: $90.3 million.
• Convert RAL to a skills center. Move administration, On Track and preschool to the site. Close and sell Broadway, close and demolish Harding and administration. Cost: $7.4 million.
• Divide grades 6-8 between Monticello and Mount Solo. Convert under-capacity areas at Monticello to flexible learning labs. Cost: $700,000.
• Convert Cascade to a new 750-student elementary, separating K-2 and 3-5 in a “small school in school” concept. Cost: $3.9 million.
• Close and sell Columbia Heights and CVG, send students to new Cascade Elementary.
• Convert under-capacity areas at Kessler, Mint Valley, Olympic and St. Helens to flexible learning labs. No change at Robert Gray. Cost: $11.2 million.
Total estimated cost: $103.5 million.
• Keep two high schools. Convert under-capacity areas of both to flexible learning labs. Move On Track to RAL. Close and demolish Harding Building. Cost: $1.7 million.
• Close and sell Northlake, disperse students to other sites.
• Close and sell Broadway, move preschool program to one of the remaining elementary schools with light remodel. Cost: $350,000.
• No change to administration building
• All other buildings same as Option 2.
Total estimated cost: $7.4 million.