District solicits comments on high school ideas

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MOSES LAKE — Residents from across the Moses Lake School District gathered Tuesday evening at the Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center to consider several ideas for the district’s next high school.

“While there is a difference of opinion on what is the right answer to our community, we made some promises with the school bond, to build a new high school, elementary school, and refurbish the existing high school,” said Superintendent Josh Meek.

“We want you to help keep us to those promises,” Meek added.

The new high school, along with the elementary school and improvements to the existing Moses Lake High School, were included in a $135 million school construction bond just barely passed by district voters last February.

A group of residents have challenged the Grant County Auditor’s certification of the election, with lawyers representing both sides await a ruling from the state’s Third District Court of Appeals in Spokane.

Meek unveiled the three preliminary ideas for a high school on the site at West Valley and Paxson — Edge, Butterfly, and Hilltop — though the superintendent emphasized these aren’t designs yet, simply ideas of how to best situate a new high school on the site.

All of the preliminary ideas envision a two- or three-story, 1,600-student high school situated on the southern portion of the 50-acre site with separate arts and athletic centers to allow the school to host multiple events simultaneously.

One of the ideas, Hillside, was nearly a quarter-mile long — a design several observers referred to as likely too difficult to manage in the five minutes between classes and likely a heating and cooling “nightmare.”

The district is seeking community input into the design of its next elementary and high schools.

The process of drawing district boundaries should begin early next year and conclude by the end of 2018, with the selection of a school name and mascot taking place long before the school opens.

If the district can keep to its construction timeline, “our current seventh-graders will be the first class graduating from two high schools,” Meek said.

Elliott Goodrich, who is challenging School Board President Kevin Donovan for a seat on the board, said the district needs to an honest look at what it really needs. In his conversation with state officials, Goodrich says the incoming wave of students will be 500 to 700 — not enough to justify a second, full-sized high school.

“We’re not going to fully use a second high school for 35 years, and there will be empty seats. That seems irresponsible,” Goodrich said. “We need to focus on what we need now and in the immediate future. Our kids have the real need here.”

Goodrich said there is an overcrowding problem, but that could be addressed by expanding the current high school, and focusing added capacity at the elementary school level.

He was also concerned that creating two high schools would bring Moses Lake down a notch or two, with the teams now facing off against smaller rivals as opposed to the high schools in Wenatchee and Pasco the Chiefs currently play.

“Competing against Othello doesn’t feel right,” Goodrich said.

Donovan said he was pleased with the turnout and much of discussion he was hearing about the ideas for the new high school.

“People are beginning to understand,” he said. “I’m pleased with the process, and where (architect firm) NAC is taking us.”

Donovan noted, however, that there was not a lot of interest in the quarter-mile long Hillside idea.

“This will continue to the end of the year, and we’ll move forward as much as we can,” Donovan said.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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