Although the Kelso School Board will vote Monday to approve the design for Wallace Elementary School, the final fate of the district’s bond plan won’t be decided until later this month.
The district announced in November that it was considering building only two schools with the $98.6 million bond focused on building three new elementary schools. This proposal was driven by increased construction costs and poor soil conditions, which increased the total price for the three school by about $20 million.
Scott Westlund, finance director, said the district considered several options for cutting costs. These included:
- Asking voters to support additional bonds — therefore tax hikes — to make up for unexpected costs increases.
- Building three new elementary schools as planned, but cutting $20 million worth of other bond-funded projects.
- Building new schools for Wallace and Lexington, renovating the Beacon Hill school and cutting parts of other bond projects.
- Putting the Beacon Hill school offline and building new schools at Wallace and Lexington, with a 950-capacity building on the Lexington site.
Most of the district’s efforts are focused on the last of these options because it preserves the most of the bond plan and doesn’t further burden the taxpayers, Westlund said.
And because these proposals do little to change the design plans for Wallace Elementary School — which have been publicly available since October — the board can vote on those at Monday’s meeting, said Superintendent Mary Beth Tack.
However, the board is waiting to choose between a 650- or 950-student school at Lexington. Plans for the smaller building were released in October, while plans for the larger building were released in December.
The Lexington decision will likely determine the district’s ultimate bond plans. Tack said it’s important to provide time for school staff and community members to review and respond to the designs before the board makes its decision. She anticipates the board will vote on the matter at its Jan. 28 meeting.
Also Monday the board will vote to approve the bond-funded projects at Kelso High School, which include renovations for the trades program and replacing the main gym floor and bleachers. These projects are estimated to cost about $3.3 million, which is about $600,000 under budget, Westlund said in a district memo to the board.
The district is “set and ready to being the bidding process” for these projects, Tack said, and construction is scheduled to being in the summer.
The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Kelso High School media center (1904 Allen Street). It will be preceded by a public work session about the elementary school schematic designs, starting at 4:30 p.m.