Potential merging of high schools still has many hurdles to clear

2012-12-07T20:15:00Z 2013-04-11T13:25:23Z Potential merging of high schools still has many hurdles to clearBy Leslie Slape / The Daily News Longview Daily News
December 07, 2012 8:15 pm  • 

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.

OPTION 1A

• 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.

OPTION 1B

• Same as Option 1A except remodel Northlake slightly to support preschool.

Total estimated cost: $18.8 million.

OPTION 2

• 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.

OPTION 3

• 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.

Copyright 2015 Longview Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(9) Comments

  1. Jensdad
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    Jensdad - December 07, 2012 9:22 pm
    You gotta love when money grows on trees. Maybe they can build a helipad for the superintendent and a fleet of golf carts for the administrators of each of the departments. Seems that's where things are heading. BTW... How old is that administrative building?
  2. BigChinook
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    BigChinook - December 08, 2012 10:34 am
    Seems like a no-brainer, go with the least expensive option. In this economy it would be ridiculous to spend more than necessary on this project.
  3. Leslie Slape
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    Leslie Slape - December 08, 2012 12:53 pm
    Jensdad: The adminstration campus was built between 1932 and 1967.
  4. Jensdad
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    Jensdad - December 08, 2012 6:21 pm
    So what building was just built two years ago then in the back parking area? And now they want to tear it down.
  5. justcurrious
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    justcurrious - December 10, 2012 6:08 am
    Why add 2 gyms when mark morris would still have one readily available? and they have the pool ?
    Seriously why move the admin around ?
  6. concernedLSDE
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    concernedLSDE - December 12, 2012 3:02 pm
    Its really too bad that the focus can not be more geared toward "what can we do to keep these Kiddos coming to school?" I feel that it is way too easy to "give up" and let Kids go to different programs. How many of the 1300 moved to a different location vs switched to a "quick fix".....when I was growing up school was not an option!!!
  7. Semiquixotic
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    Semiquixotic - December 13, 2012 11:07 pm
    Option 1A...with a twist.

    Merge with the Kelso School District and split Mark Morris students between RA Long and Kelso. This would eliminate the 7.4 Million RALong remodel and add a vocational skills center.

    Yes this will upset alumni. Full disclosure - I'm an MM alum and would rather have been switched to Kelso than RALong.
  8. JSharae
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    JSharae - December 14, 2012 12:15 pm
    Considering we are broke, and most won't ever agree with merging the high schools, I say we go with the CHEAPEST option, which also helps to preserve classroom sizes the most. Like someone else said, money doesn't grow on trees. Go with the cheapest option and work your way from there if that doesn't pan out! Don't just spend 100+million when the district is already broke. I don't care what you say, I don't take out more debt to get myself out of debt!
  9. joe nobody
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    joe nobody - December 23, 2012 12:09 pm
    Save money on "duplicate, redundant classes," huh? Boyoboy, what a great idea! Why dont the rocket scientists proposing this wonderful scheme take it to the next level and consolidate with Portland and maybe Centralia too. Just think of all the "duplication" and "rendundancy" this would eliminate. Why must we always try to "fix" things not broken??
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