Othello to make school bond decision Monday

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OTHELLO — The Othello School Board hasn’t reached a decision about which projects it will include in a construction bond to be offered to voters in February. Board members discussed their options at a workshop Oct. 16 and planned to come to a decision, but deferred it to the regular board meeting Monday.

The board meets at 7 p.m. in the district office, 1025 S. First Ave. First Avenue is being resurfaced, and access from the street may still be closed Monday. People who want to attend the meeting should plan to use an alternate route.

The board voted in July to offer a bond to the voters, but without specifics on which projects would be included. Board members also have discussed the option of splitting the project into multiple bonds.

District officials sponsored a series of community meetings, which resulted in a recommendation for a new elementary school, kindergarten through fifth grade, and a second middle school. The recommendation also included remodeling and expansion at the existing Othello High School, either as part of the bond in February or as a separate bond, in 2019 at the earliest. Two other projects were included as options, a sports complex and an auditorium.

Othello is eligible for construction funds from the state. But that money is distributed through the capital budget, which is currently in limbo as the result of a dispute between the Washington House and Washington Senate over a Washington Supreme Court decision on water rights.

“We don’t know how much the state will be contributing,” said executive director of business services Brian Bodah. “We anticipate it will be something, but we don’t how much it will be.” As a result the estimates given to the board don’t include school construction funds.

Tentative total project cost when the sports complex was included was about $91.5 million. Without the sports complex the tentative total project cost was about $76.3 million.

The new elementary school and middle school would be located on district-owned property at the intersection of 14th Street and Lee Road. Tentative plans have the two buildings sharing some common space.

District officials conducted a community survey, and some respondents expressed concern about a grade school and middle school as next-door neighbors. In response to that concern, district superintendent Chris Hurst said the two schools would have separate schedules and would use the space at different times.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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