Both the Mark Morris and R.A. Long high school campuses are large enough to accommodate a new, combined high school, the Longview School Board learned Monday night.
They also learned such a school would cost between $150 million and $160 million if it were built during the early and middle part of the next decade.
Previously, consultants had said only the Northlake/Mark Morris site is large enough to accommodate a 2,100-student high school. Monday, Construction Services Group director Kirk Pawlowski, said either campus could fit such a school.
A combined high school would cost $160 million if it were built at the Mark Morris/Northlake site and $150 million if it were built at the R.A. Long site, Pawlowski said.
It was the first time the district has received anything approaching a firm estimate for the cost of building one high school. The price tag is about eight times larger than any school construction measure district voters have ever approved.
The school board is grappling with its facilities needs, including an estimated $200 million to revamp and reconstruct its elementary schools. That estimate does not include the cost of doing anything about the high schools.
Faced with such gargantuan price tags, the school board is moving cautiously before laying out a plan for voter approval. Monday night, they took a small step by unanimously deciding that the district should rebuild Northlake Elementary School.
Officials had previously been told rebuilding Northlake would preclude building a combined high school. But that is no longer the case, now that consultants are reporting that either current high school site is large enough to handle a single high school.
“With this vote tonight we have not decided whether we’re going to have one high school or two high schools,” said board Vice President Barb Westrick. “What we did find out tonight is we have options for either R.A. Long or Mark Morris to have one high school there if that’s where we go.”
Westrick also clarified that the board had not decided on closing any schools, including Columbia Heights Elementary, which the facilities committee had discussed closing if Northlake was to stay open.
The board will then begin discussion of the details of the facilities plan at a special March 6 board meeting.
“The value from my standpoint is that we have clarified Northlake,” Superintendent Dan Zorn said. “Northlake is in the mix and that we are fine as we move into the future with either site … with a potential for a new high school in the future.“